Blue parrot featured in ‘Rio’ likely no longer exists in the wild, study concludes

Blue parrot featured in ‘Rio’ likely no longer exists in the wild, study concludes
According to BirdLife International, about 60-80 Spix's macaws still live in captivity. (Source: Patrick Pleul)

(RNN) – A form of blue parrot, which featured as a character in the 2011 animated film “Rio,” is believed to be extinct in the wild, according to a new study, and actually has been for nearly two decades.

The last wild Spix’s macaw, according to research by BirdLife International, likely died in 2000.

In “Rio,” Blu is the last male Spix’s macaw, smuggled out of Brazil as an egg and hatched in Minnesota. After 15 years of living in captivity as a woman’s pet, he is brought to Brazil to mate with the last known female of the species, a wild bird named Jewel.

After a series of close calls and dangerous turns, the pair wind up together and eventually have three children.

In reality though, according to BirdLife International, “it is sadly highly unlikely this Blu ever found his Jewel,” because Spix’s macaw probably disappeared from the wild about 18 years ago.

A Spix’s macaw named Presley born in the wild and said to be the inspiration for “Rio” died in 2014 without leaving offspring. He was believed to be the second-to-last born in the wild, according to National Geographic.

BirdLife noted a 2016 sighting thought possibly to be of a wild Spix’s macaw is now believed to have been a bird which escaped from captivity.

According to the study, there were three remaining wild Spix’s macaws in the north of Bahia state, in eastern Brazil, in the last 80s. They were captured and sold, however.

A last wild male was found in 1990 in the area where the previous three lived. It survived another 10 years.

“There have (been) no subsequent records of wild birds, despite searches and fieldworker presence in the area,” the study’s authors write. “Loss of gallery woodland and trapping for the cagebird trade likely drove declines.”

The study also identified three species it will recommend be re-classified as extinct and another four that should be reclassified as possibly extinct.

That includes another blue parrot, Glaucous macaw.

BirdLife notes that it is not the case that there are no Spix’s macaws at all left. According to the group there are, in fact, 60-80 still living in captivity.

It is possible to rehabilitate a population from this classification of near-extinction. The California condor technically became extinct in the wild in 1987 when the last six known living wild birds were captured and entered into a breeding program.

Today, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are 276 alive in the wild.

“A program is underway to build up this population and hopefully release into the wild in due course,” BirdLife International’s chief scientist, Stuart Butchart, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Spix’s macaw has not yet been reclassified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, largely considered the global authority on animal conservation status.

That organization still lists the bird as “Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild).”

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