Simon Degenhard: Spix’s Macaws will certainly fly in their habitat again, it’s just a matter of time

January 6th, 2016 | by LubosTomiska
Simon Degenhard: Spix’s Macaws will certainly fly in their habitat again, it’s just a matter of time
Breeding
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Today, aviculture is a hobby popular all over the world. That’s why it was our pleasure to interview Simon Degenhard – a bird breeder and publisher of avicultural magazine Australian Aviary Life. Simon travels a lot and so has visited many great bird collections. He is also involved in promotion of Spix’s Macaw breeding project which is the most significant highlight of parrot conservation in this century . In following interview we ask Simon about breeding of birds in foreign countries, cooperation with ACTP or successful export of Glossy Cockatoos from Australia to Germany.

Simon, in recent times you have travelled a lot all over the world. During early 2015 you visited India, which afforded you the opportunity tosee for yourself what aviculture is like there. I would say that many people in Europe, the U.S.A and Australia really have little idea of how things are done there. So what’s your impression of aviculture in India?

Yes, that’s correct Lubos, over the past few years I have been lucky enough to have travelled to many countries and visited many amazing bird collections.

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Simon, Matthias Reinschmidt and Indian friends at the 2015 Avian Society of India International Convention

Simon with Anil Garg and Eric Antheunisse, India 2015

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Whilst, as a result of numerous conversations with Tony Silva, I did have some idea of what to expect when heading to India for my first visit back in February last year, I certainly was still very surprised, albeit pleasantly,by what I saw during my time there. The level of interest and passion for our feathered friends that was demonstrated by all who attended the Avian Society of India (ASI) Convention was nothing short of impressive. Indian aviculturists are simply so eager to learn and improve their avicultural techniques; their enthusiasm is just wonderful. Overall I was really impressed and cannot wait to return this coming February!

Tony Silva wrote in one of his articles that India is going to draw level, in terms of skills and husbandry, with aviculture in Europe, Australia and the U.S.A. Do you agree?

Yes, I totally agree with Tony’s comments and feel that this will happen sooner rather than later. With the Avian Society of India (ASI) moving forward and growing at a rapid rate, Indian Aviculture is in good hands. The thirst for knowledge is so great and thankfully this is being largely quenched by the ASI, who among other things have and will continue to run numerous conventions and workshops, both large and small, that are without doubt of great benefit to aviculture in their wonderful country and will undoubtedly help guide breeders there to the forefront of the avicultural world.

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with Tony Silva and Daniel Gowland in India, February 2015

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Over the last two years your name has been connected with ACTP, the well known breeding centre in Berlin that is working with some of the world’s rarest parrots, including the Spix’s Macaw in an effort to help save them from extinction. How did it come about that the publisher of an Australian avicultural magazine and the President of ACTP, Martin Guth became such close friends?

This story actually began back in 2011, when a mutual friend put Martin and I in contact with the intent for me to start publishing news from ACTP in Aviarylife. Of course I was more than happy to help promote the wonderful work that ACTP was and is carrying out with the Spix’s Macaw and other endangered parrot species. From this point on we began conversing on a more and more regular basis and in turn a great friendship has formed.

The first time we met in person was back in September 2014, when I lead an Aussie bird tour of Europe prior to the International Parrot Convention at Loro Parque; I know that you remember this tour very well, as it commenced in the Czech Republic where your assistance in organising transport, accommodation and aviary visits was invaluable.

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Aviarylife European Tour 2014

Aviarylife European Tour 2014

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Martin had invited me to visit ACTP many times prior to this, however this was the first time that I was able to do so. It was great to finally meet the man in person and of course equally great to see the amazing facilities at ACTP. The setup there is second to none and is an immense credit to Martin, the man behind the dream!

You regularly promote the work of ACTP; so what is your current position within the organisation – are you an official representative or just a close friend who wants to support the great work that they do?

Yes, I am a great believer in and supporter of their work. Organisations and facilities such as ACTP, Al Wabra, Priam Psittaculture Centre and the Loro Parque Foundation are vital in the quest to save many of the worlds endangered parrot species and therefore they deserve our full support. ACTP has accomplished a great deal in a relatively short time and I am very keen to do whatever I can to assist and see this continue and even greater success achieved.

READ  Interview with David T. Longo, the successful breeder and exporter of parrots. PART I

In official terms I am a media partner of ACTP, but you can certainly also count me as a close friend who supports the organisation in whatever way that I can.

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Simon Degenhard holding a Spix's Macaw chick bred by ACTP in 2015

Simon Degenhard holding a Spix’s Macaw chick bred by ACTP in 2015

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As a result of your close connection with ACTP, last year you were given the chance to travel to Brazil for a very important set of events that focused on therecovery and eventual release of the Spix’s Macaw. How do you see the future of the Spix’s Macaw? Do you believe that they will one day be successfully released back into their wild habitat?

Yes, back at the beginning of March 2015 I was given the privilege and honour of being part of the team to escort two Spix’s Macaws, Carla and Tiago, from ACTP (Berlin) to Brazil where they were donated to the Government and people of Brazil to bolster the numbers of the species in its home country. The handover was held on World Wildlife Day and was a huge event to say the least! It was amazing to be a part of this incredible event and it was especially great to see the hugely positive reaction it drew from the general public, not just in Brazil and Germany, but also right across the globe!

I see the future continuing to improve for the Spix’s Macaw, both ACTP and Al Wabra are achieving greater success each year and the determination of both these world class facilities to see these beautiful blue macaws return to the wild is only increasing with each breeding season. I certainly believe that we will see them released back into their wild habitat sometime between now and 2021 and when the time comes I will have everything crossed in the hope that they will survive and once again fly free in Brazil!

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Simon escorting a Spix's Macaw en route to Brazil, March 2015

Simon escorting a Spix’s Macaw en route to Brazil, March 2015

World Wildlife Day 2015, Brazil

World Wildlife Day 2015, Brazil

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During the past year, 20 Spix’s Macaws have been raised. This number is certainly the highest in the history of the recovery project. In your opinion, what is it the reason for this sudden rise in success?

Yes, 2015 certainly proved to be by far the most successful year for the Spix’s Macaw recovery program to date. I would say that this is for a number of reasons, including firstly the fact that the breeding population is now being largely managed by two amazing and dedicated teams of people at ACTP and Al Wabra, who are all now very experienced with the management and breeding of this species.

Secondly a great deal of research has been carried out over the past few years, particularly at Al Wabra under the leadership of Dr. Cromwell Purchase, into use of artificial insemination (AI)with partners (Parrots Reproduction Consulting), which has opened up many new possibilities in terms of pairings within the program and has even allowed for the formation of a number of  “lesbian” pairs (there is an imbalance in the sexes of the population with a bias to females) that have now successfully produced fertile eggs. AI has also allowed for the use of sperm from a number males within the program that have not previously been successfully bred from, which has helped to increase the genetic diversity of the young that are being produced, with this of course being of major importance to the program.

And thirdly the cooperation between ACTP and Al Wabra has progressed very nicely indeed and they are now working very closely together, sharing information and exchanging birds for the formation of new unrelated pairs, which is a huge plus for the program, bringing the realisation of the dream of seeing these beautiful birds flying free in their wild habitat once again one giant step closer!

News Flash!

On the subject of the Spix’s and the fantastic cooperation between recovery project partners ACTP and Al Wabra, I am very excited to be able to officially announce that in December 2015, for the first time ever, birds were exchanged between these two world class facilities! This is a huge step forward, enabling the formation of yet more unrelated pairs at both facilities. And is yet another testament to the strength of the relationship between ACTP and Al Wabra, along with their mutual commitment to the recovery Spix’s Macaw!

READ  Karl Hansal talks about his successful breeding of Golden-shouldered and Timor Red-winged Parrots. PART I

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First ever exchange of Spix's Macaws bewteen ACTP and Al Wabra, December 20151

First ever exchange of Spix’s Macaws bewteen ACTP and Al Wabra, December 2015

First ever exchange of Spix's Macaws bewteen ACTP and Al Wabra, December 2015

First ever exchange of Spix’s Macaws bewteen ACTP and Al Wabra, December 2015

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When I look through the Aviarylife issues that have been published during the past couple of years, it becomes quite obvious that you are a fan of lories. For many years you have maintained a collection of lories and lorikeets at home, however recently you have moved out of Sydney back to the mid-north coast of NSW; do you still have lories and if not do you plan to keep again? What are your general plans for future?

Yes, lories and lorikeets are among my favourite birds, I just love their character, they are so full of life and of course it’s hard to go past their spectacular plumage. As you mention, back in July we moved 5 1/2 hours north of Sydney, near a city called Coffs Harbour, which is where I lived as a teenager. Due to this move I was forced to significantly reduce my collection, however I still own a few lories and lorikeets plus other parrots/cockatoos/macaws etc., so I am not out of them completely. I think I will always have lories and lorikeets in my collection, they are such wonderful birds that I don’t believe I could ever be without them, not for long anyway!

In future years I would like to continue to work more with Varied Psitteuteles versicolour, Little Glossopsitta pusilla and Purple-crowned Glossopsitta porphyrocephala Lorikeets, plus I’d love to try my hand at breeding Goldies Lorikeets Psitteuteles goldiei and Yellow-bibbed Lorius chlorocercus, Yellow-streaked Chalcopsitta scintillate and Blue-streaked Eos reticulateLories. I am also very keen to work with more black cockatoo species, especially the Glossy’s Calyptorhynchus lathami, and Golden-shouldered Psephotus chrysopterygius and SwiftLathamus discolor Parrots, plus I’d love to get back into keeping some finches, softbills, pigeons and doves and even pheasants some day!

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Young mutation and normal coloured Purple-crowned Lorikeets bred by Simon

Young mutation and normal coloured Purple-crowned Lorikeets bred by Simon

Varied and Little Lorikeet chicks bred by Simon

Varied and Little Lorikeet chicks bred by Simon

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When the time comes to build new aviaries I will build a mixture of suspended and conventional aviaries, depending on the species that they will house. For the lories/lorikeets suspendeds are the way to go in my opinion, but for some of the other species, such as Golden-shoulders, conventional aviaries are more suitable due to their tendency to spend a lot of time foraging on the ground. And for finches, softbills, pigeons and doves planted aviaries are generally the best way to go.

During October last year you participated in the first legal export of Glossy Black Cockatoos from Australia to Europe. Can you describe briefly how this was achieved and who was behind it?

Yes, this was an amazing achievement and one that I am immensely proud to have been a part of! The official process began back in April last year, although the initial discussionsbetween Martin Guth (ACTP) and Daniel Gowland (Priam Psittaculture Centre) regarding the possibility of doing so took place some 6+ months earlier after an introduction by yours truly during the Aviarylife 2014 European Tour.

Between the initial meeting with the relevant Australian authorities in Canberra in April 2015 to the arrival of the birds into Germany in October of the same year a huge amount of work was carried out to make it happen, both here and in Germany and it is incredible that it was possible to achieve the export of these magnificent cockatoos within such a short space of time – only 6 short months! Huge credit must go to both Priam and ACTP for achieving what most thought was the impossible!

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Simon with Glossy Black Cockatoos en route to Berlin

Simon with Glossy Black Cockatoos en route to Berlin

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The legal export of native birds from Australia has been banned since 1960. How is that it took so long to break this ban? Has the legislation been changed?

Actually, at this point in time the export of native species is still banned in a general sense in that it is only possible if it takes places between two zoologically recognised facilities for the purpose of setting up or diversifying the bloodlines within breeding programs. Both Priam and ACTP meet these requirements, which is the only reason that the Australian authorities were willing to even consider allowing the export of the Glossy Blacks to take place. Basically we only managed to get the approval for the export of these birds due to the very high standing of both Priam and ACTP.

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How will this event change aviculture across the world?

I believe it is a hugely positive step for aviculture worldwide; firstly it shows that through hard work and determination the impossible is actually possible. In addition to this,and in my opinion more importantly, the successful movement of these birds out of Australia sets a great precedent in terms of leading the way forthe continuation of further legal movement of parrot species between breeding programs worldwide. Which is absolutely imperative when it comes to enabling the implementation and maintenance of sustainable global breeding programs for threatened parrot species.

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Simon and ACTP President, Martin Guth in Brazil, March 2015

Simon and ACTP President, Martin Guth in Brazil, March 2015

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Let’s talk about your magazine Aviarylife. Can you describe it and tell us about its history?

Aviarylife was first published (as Australian Aviary Life) back in 2005, I began writing articles for the original owner in that year and then took on an assistant editorial role in 2007. This arrangement continued until mid-2011 when I then took over as editor. In 2013 I then purchased the business and have been running it ever since. Initially I was juggling this responsibility with a fulltime job in the transport industry along with my family obligations and birds. More recently our move back to the mid-north coast of NSW has allowed me to give up my transport job and concentrate on the magazine in a much greater capacity, which is very exciting to say the least!

Since taking over I have pushed to include a much greater range of subject matter to give the magazine a much wider appeal. In this regard the magazine now includes articles, stories and news pieces covering a wide range of subjects including avicultural based articles on parrots, lories/lorikeets, finches and softbills, plus soon there will be some articles on pheasants and waterfowl featured as well. In addition to this I run regular updates on conservation based projects such as those run by ACTP, Priam, Al Wabra and the LoroParque Foundation etc., along with articles on the best places to visit in order to see birds in the wild, pictorial profiles of bird photographers and artists as well as convention reports plus much more. The magazine consists of 60 full colour pages (including front and back cover) and is returning to a bimonthly frequency this year.

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AviaryLife Mag

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These days the magazine is not only focused on aviculture in Australia, instead it has a more international focusand with this has also come many foreign subscribers. I am aware that you now have subscribers from India, Europe and the U.S.A among other countries. It seems that you would like to spread your magazine further onto the international market?

Yes, in recent times I have really pushed to give the magazine a much more international flavour, which I feel is very important these days now that aviculturists around the world are so well connected. I believe that most bird lovers are not only very interested in what is going on in their own backyards, but also what’s occurring in other parts of the globe as well and it is this wider thirst for knowledge that I am striving to help quench. This in turn opens Aviarylife up to a much greater international market, which is of huge importance to the future of the publication and continuing to grow the international subscription base is a major goal of mine going forward. I currently have subscribers in many countries around the world, with this number increasing all the time.

If I was living in say China or Canada for instance and wanted to subscribe Aviarylife what are the options and pricing? I guess that the cost of postage to subscribers outside of Australia would significantly affect the price of a subscription;do you offer any other formats aside from the hardcopy paper version of your magazine?

Yes, the magazine is currently available in three formats – the hardcopy (paper) version that you mention, along with a PDF E-mag and via the Aviarylife App.

Aviarylife subscription options and pricing are as follows:

Hardcopy (paper) version

Within Australia: $65 AUD for 6 issues

Rest of the world: $95 AUD for 6 issues

And

PDF E-mag Worldwide: $45 AUD for 6 issues

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Simon Degenhard with a Palm Cockatoo chick

Simon Degenhard with a Palm Cockatoo chick

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What do you offer to people and/or companies that might be interested in advertising their products in your magazine?

In terms of advertising in Aviarylife, I offer commercial advertisers not only very competitive rates, but also a personal service in that they deal directly with me and I will do everything within my powers to meet their advertising needs. In addition to coverage within the magazine itself all commercial advertisers also get additional coverage via the Aviarylife website and facebook page. I also offer a free graphic design service if advertisers require their ads to be designed for them. And I am happy to afford commercial advertisers a limited amount of editorial space within the magazine via which they can introduce their products.

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Title photo: Simon with Hyacinth Macaw

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