What do the Imperial Woodpecker, “Rio: The Movie”, and 517 Amazon Chicks in Brazil have in common?

Aside from having feathers, the stories of the Imperial Woodpecker, “Rio”, and 517 Parrot chicks in Brazil do have some things in common. These are topics of conservation that have been trending in the avian community these past few months. Many of us in the avian community are fined tuned into these stories probably with more awareness than the non avian community. And there sure is a story to be told with each… one of total peril, one of a fictitious character that represents a far off truth of a species in true peril, and one of an interception of more than five hundred amazons on their way to a state of potential peril.

85 seconds of the Imperial Woodpecker

While the Imperial Woodpecker is not a parrot species, the many in the parrot community know about the plight of the Imperial Woodpecker as many of us have viewed that rare 85 second video footage from Cornell University. This video is described as the only video in existence of this amazing creature that is now a distant memory of past generations. In short, this was a common bird that thrived in unique and virgin timberlands. The timberlands were destroyed for the purpose of man’s need for paper and wood products: therefore we eliminated this majestic two foot tall bird’s unique environment. Oh, to encourage the woodpeckers’ s demise, timber companies gave the locals poison packets to set out as it was believed that the bird was destroying the timber when in actuality, the bird was feeding off the larvae of the pine beetle. Today, the pine beetle still plagues the timber industry.

96 Minutes of “Rio: The Movie” released by 20th Century Fox

How about “Blu” the loving and fictitious character portrayed as the last male of his species? In case you didn’t see it, “Rio” has a happy ending. Blu and his mate fly off into the sunset presumably to carry on the species. While entertaining, there are some hints of truth with this story-in that it’s about a blue bird that is deemed as the last male of his species. In fact, some sources indicate that Blu’s character is based on a real live Spix’s Macaw discovered in a pet setting in Colorado years ago. The parrot community compares this character to the condition of the now “extinct in the wild” Spix’s Macaw. While believed to be extinct in the wild, it is the parrot and avian community that regularly discuss the increasing numbers of Spix’s Macaw held in managed captive breeding facilities such as Loro Parque and Al Wabra. Interesting that “Rio: The Movie” based on a plot that nearly touches the truth, brings in nearly 500 million dollars at the box office alone. We can, with a reasonable amount of confidence, assume that it was more than just the parrot community that got a taste of ‘near truth’ about a parrot being the last of its kind. One should question the real message here. But alas, the parrot community did put a spin on this. Reports indicate that the story of Blu opened the doors to parrot awareness, as well as conservation matters. We can only hope that other conservation organizations also took advantage of this acclaimed entertainment value and educated captive audiences in order to fuel public awareness of parrot conservation and perhaps to acheive some fundraising.

Now, the 517 Amazon chicks rescued in Pernambuco, Brazil

In recent weeks, the Brazilian officials thwarted smuggling attempts of over 500 Amazon chicks and the plea to help these chicks spread everywhere in the avian community. The parrot species in this particular interception included Blue Front amazons, Yellow Shoulder amazons, as well as a few smaller indigenous species of parrakeets.

Well, some of these species are endangered. Some species are rather common. And, for the record, this group of parrots was not the only group of parrots destined for anything other than living wild that made parrot conservation headlines this year. Who is to say what is more important-saving a group of highly endangered birds or some species commonly found flying in native lands as frequently as… let’s say…the Imperial Woodpecker 100 years ago?

We at Rolf C. Hagen, Inc. and at HARI salute organizations and individuals that protect our planet’s birds-especially parrot species. And yes, as a corporate ambassador of the avian community that serves the pet industry, we are also proud to support various conservation projects such as World Parrot Trust and Parrots International to name a few. This year alone we have sent Tropican diets, and other HARI Approved products to various conservation projects to promote and encourage the study of parrots in the wild. Yes, the companion bird we love and hold dear is probably a mere generation or two removed from the wild…and that’s ok. After all, our pet birds, be they cherished members of the family or an unpredictable pair of breeding amazons in an aviary setting, really can’t go back to a life in the wild, like “Blu”. There are too many other global conflicts within native ecosystems that makes this idea too challenging- if not impossible. However, there is indeed an obligation to help preserve these bird species in their native lands. Imagine your future generations of offspring watching a video of the last known brown throated conure.

What can you do? Some folks give up their funds allocated for their daily coffee fix for conservation donation. No amount is too small and any funding towards these projects is appreciated and needed. However, you can do something else that would be good if not better… share these stories with one of those out of the parrot community-you know the ones that contributed to the gross profit of fiction-except tell them the truth!

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