News & Press: General

Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) Added to the Endangered Species List

Thursday, March 14, 2019  

By: Dr. Susan Clubb, AAV Legislative Committee Co-chair

On Feb 26, 2019, The US Fish and Wildlife Service published their final rule regarding listing Scarlet macaws on the US Endangered Species list.  This is an unusual listing in that the Central American Sub-species Ara macao cyanoptera is being listed as endangered while the southern subspecies Ara macao macao is being listed as threatened with the 4 (d) rule.

Since A.m. cyanoptera is listed as endangered, the major factor affecting captive birds in the US is to restrict interstate commerce in the species unless permits are secured for both the buyer and the seller.  With A.m.macao the threatened listing carriers fewer restrictions, and the 4(d) rule allows interstate commerce.

The service clarified that ownership of a listed species is not prohibited by the act (Federal law), but they have no discretion over regulations in certain states which may restrict ownership of listed species or require permitting.  Some restrictions may not apply if ownership can be documented prior to the date of listing.  For clients who own A.m. cyanoptera, documentation of ownership by a veterinarian could be important if the owner would like to document pre-listing ownership. This would require identification by leg band or microchip. They did state that those wishing to engage in interstate commerce could apply for Captive Bred Wildife Registration (CBW), however the criteria for obtaining these registrations are becoming more extensive.

A.m.cyanoptera is found in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Isla Coiba in Panama.  The nominate subspecies, A,m.macao is widespread in South America, actually having the largest range of any macaw, and the population is stable in most areas, however this subspecies as well as hybrids of the 2 subspecies are being listed because of similarity in appearance.

They are differentiating the subspecies by a broader yellow band and little green on the dorsal wing coverts and a larger wing in Cyanoptera.  They acknowledge that with some individuals genetic analysis would be required to differentiate the subspecies.

The 130 page report contained extensive data to support the listing.  A proposed rule had been published in 2016 and comments received for and against were detailed and responded to by the service. The total population of scarlet macaws in Mesoamerica is estimated to be approximately 5000 birds. The greatest threats to the species are habitat destruction, conversion of habitat to agriculture, and capture for internal trade within the region.

They acknowledged numerous reintroduction programs in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and recognized that these programs are contributing to population increases in many areas.

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