How would you feel if you were the last one of your species free in the wild? With no one to talk to, live with, no one to love. That is how Juliet feels, the last wild Blue and Yellow Macaw in Brazil.
In these perilous times when wildlife is being decimated at a devastating rate, a sole wild macaw named Juliet flies in the skies of Brazil, searching for her Romeo. Juliet is believed to be the last wild blue and yellow macaw alive. Juliet is assumed to be a female searching for a mate at the zoo enclosure in Rio. A Macaw’s gender cannot be determined by sight alone, it requires genetic feather testing or close physical examination. Both not possible in the wild, and it wouldn’t make sense to capture Juliet just satisfy human curiosity. Every day she flies in and perches herself atop the macaw cage at the zoo, making grooming contact with other birds in captivity, often cuddling and canoodling with them as it seems. Researchers question if she makes close contact with a single male bird or multiple Romeos.
Last of Its Kind
Blue and Yellow macaws live about 35 years, and it has been two decades of Juliet’s search. According to Neive Guedes, president of the Hyacinth Macaw institute viz. An environmental institute, Juliet should have found a mate for life a long time ago. But she still appears to be in her dating phase. (Or just like us, she could have watched YJHD a bit too many times)
According to Guedes, who researches macaws in urban settings, macaws are social birds, i.e. they like to be in the company of other birds and get lonely if they don’t. This is probably why Juliet perches at the enclosure because she is the last bird of her kind left in the wild. The rest are in captivity. The last wild macaw sighting was in 1818 Brazil by an Austrian Naturalist.
BioParque last year upgraded the macaw aviary from 100 square foot to 10,700 square feet for macaws to fly alongside parrots forming a giant swirl of colors. This happened after the successful privatization attempt of the Rio Zoo, which was in desperate need of a renovation. The upgrade was much needed because macaws are believed to fly to great distances in a single flight.
BioParque’s eventual goal is to reinstate bio ecosystems in Brazil. They do that by associating themselves with research programmes. In this particular case, they partnered up with Refauna to breed blue and yellow macaws and increase their population in the wild.
The association plans to breed 20 birds in captivity and train them, equipping them with survival skills like finding food, avoiding hunters and extension lines. After this, the birds will be released in the Tijuca Forest National Park in Rio; the believed home of Juliet. The bright and striking feathers help macaws to find each other in dense forests but also puts them at risk of detection by hunters and predators.
“They can prove to be very vital in the reforestation of Brazil because macaws are big birds with big beaks that can crack big fruits (not all birds can do that), aiding pollination” says Rheingantz, the university biologist and Refauna’s technical coordinator. The macaws will be instrumental in distributing seeds across the forest helping the animals that can’t.
The timeline is set with macaws to be released by 2022. Hopefully, Juliet will not be alone anymore, maybe even find her own “Bunny” for life.