Bring the Natives Back

Mankind has learned, the hard way, that meddling with predators and habitat leads to serious consequences for the whole, connected ecosystem. These days, we spend time and money in attempts to reverse our errors. Sometimes the very nature of the animal involved can be of assistance.

Jaguars, once roaming much of the southwestern United States, have wandered back into Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. No stable population has been established yet, but the potential is there.

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Condors are extremely visible poster animals for captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild, with more success than would have seemed possible. And not only have we learned a lot on breeding and releasing, we have learned how to raise the chicks so that they don’t imprint on humans. Fear of the naked ape is important to these birds’ survival.

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But my main species to champion for reintroduction is the thick billed-parrot. As a lover of parrots specifically, and birds in general, the fact that the United States has been unsuccessful in husbanding and protecting the two native parrots found here is embarrassing. And the one that didn’t become extinct is especially difficult because they are such specialized feeders and need to have their high altitude pine habitat guarded closely.

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Without realizing that the thick-billed parrot is dependent on a large, social flock, a group of captive bred and wild caught individuals were released into the wild. Those who were captive-bred never learned from their parents how to forage, how to nest, or how to avoid predators. The whole process became a disaster, especially in the face of fire and drought in the early to mid-1990s.

Belief still holds that a large enough flock with proper conditioning and lots of luck in the weather could still survive, but the one effort was terminated, and the last of the flock was not seen again after 1995.

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Fortunately, today scientists realize that they need to focus on habitat preservation, where and when nesting and breeding occurs, and issues that may lead to chick mortality. More is known about the social habits of these parrots, and more can be done to protect them. Education is vital so that we don’t lose breeding pairs to the pet trade.

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Is it sad that it took a law suit from an environmental watch group to force the Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, to take action that may lead to sustaining habitat and reintroduction of the parrot? Of course, but it’s better to get things in gear through any means than to risk the loss of our second native parrot. As long as we get them re-established, I’ll be a happy aviculturist.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

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