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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

Polly Wanna a Date? Rare Parrot Needs a Mate [Video]

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Coco the Hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), one of the last males of his species in Paraguay, has had a rough start. Since his birth nine years ago he has been captured from the wild by illegal parrot traders, rescued, placed into Paraguay's Asunción Zoo, and then stolen from there—a crime that turned him into such a media celebrity that the thieves could not sell him and decided to set him free.

Now he's back at Asunción Zoo and looking for a mate. Too bad there aren't any available females anywhere in the vicinity.

The population of Hyacinth macaws, the world's largest flying parrots, has been hit hard in the past 30 years. Highly valued in the pet trade, tens of thousands of the birds have been taken illegally from the wild, and their habitat has also been lost to cattle ranches and hydroelectric power. Now few are left and finding mates to keep them breeding in captivity is a continual challenge.

Hyacinth macaws mate for life, so finding the right mate for Coco will be a challenge. Even if a mate is found, the next challenge will be getting the pair to reproduce. Zoo veterinarian Alex Lucas Spadetti told China's NTD Television, "Reproduction in captivity is very complicated. There are some factors that make it difficult, especially stress and the individual behavior of each animal.... We have to be lucky enough to find animals that adapt here and that want to be with each other as a couple."

Zookeepers at Asunción are talking with other zoos and breeding programs in other countries in hopes of finding that elusive female companion.

Hyacinth macaws are still found in the wild in three areas of Brazil and small parts of Bolivia. They are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which forbids their sale, although they remain popular in the illegal pet trade.

Photo: Hyacinth macaw by Randy Read via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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