Vanessa Kanaan: We have already released more than 70 Vinaceous Amazons back into the wild

February 11th, 2016 | by LubosTomiska
Vanessa Kanaan: We have already released more than 70 Vinaceous Amazons back into the wild
Conservation projects
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A few weeks ago, we informed you about activities of Instituto Espaco Silvestre with their releasing project. This organization is focused on protection of Araucarias National Park and the endangered Vinaceous Amazons. In the last couple of years, more than 70 Vinaceous Amazons have been released back into the wild. This is an extraordinary success and therefore we decided to interview one of the representatives of the project, Vanessa Kanaan.

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Vanessa, at this moment you run a successful project to save the Vinaceous Amazon in the wild. Can you tell us more about the history?

Instituto Espaço Silvestre is a non-governmental, non-profit organization, established in 1999 in order to support the implementation and participatory management of Brazilian conservation units, through research, environmental education and community mobilization. Some of the most important actions and projects of the Institute include the “Implementation of the Management Plan for the Estação Ecológica de Carijós” and partnership in the activities were carried out with REBIO the Arvoredo, Anhatomirim APA’s and Pirajubaé RESEX. Upon completion of the work at ESEC Carijós, ICMBio assumed its management and Intituto Carijós began a new phase.

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What’s your position in this organization?

In 2010, me and a group of friends passionate about wildlife gathered to establish Espaço Silvestre, an informal organization working voluntarily for Brazilian wildlife. In December 2011, with the first project approved in hands, Espaço Silvestre started a partnership with the Instituto Carijós to put into practice the planned actions. Since then, the Instituto is the new home of the first parrot reintroduction project in a Brazilian National Park with a long term goal to establish a viable A. vinacea population at the Araucárias National Park (ANP) Santa Catarina, Brazil.

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(c) Vanessa Kanaan

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In february 2013, having completed the first year of the project with proven success, the members of Instituto Espaço Silvestre were elected to the board and technical coordination of Instituto Carijós. In february 2014, Instituto Carijós changed its name to Instituto Espaço Silvestre. Today, the board has six members: Ligia Jahn (president), Paula Schommer (vice-president), Eloiza Poletto (treasurer), Desiree Marei, Lloyd Martin and Sandra Tavares (fiscal counselors). I am the Director of the technical team

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How did it come about that you decided to protect Vinaceous Amazons?

In 2010, I worked voluntarily at the Widlife Screening Center (CETAS) in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil, and noted that many Vinaceous Amazons apprehended by the Military Environmental Police spent years in captivity at the screening center due to the lack of licensed institutions that could receive the great number of birds of the species. That is when the idea to create a release project for this species started.

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So you suggested protection of this species to the board of Insituto Espaco?

At that time, I was invited to participate in a meeting held by ICMBio to discuss the National Action Plan for the Parrot Species of the Atlantic Forest. During the meeting I met ornithologist Adrian Eisen Rupp who participated in the elaboration of the Management Plan for Mata Preta Ecologic station and the Araucárias National Park (ANP), and had suggested the reintroduction of Amazona vinacea at the ANP. It was noted that the species had not been observed locally for at least 20 years, the population was extinct probably due to poaching to supply the illegal wildlife trade and that the Park had sufficient natural resources to support another population of A. vinacea. With the granting of the appropriate government licenses (Protocols were approved by IBAMA, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio protocol number 25133 and 41776) and the Federal University of Santa Catarina ethics committee for animal research (PP00589)) the release project became a long-term reintroduction program at the ANP.

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(c) Vanessa Kanaan

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Can you describe the status of the Vinaceous Amazon in the wild?

Amazona vinacea is listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered with “a very high risk of becoming extinct in the wild in the immediate future”. It is the most threatened parrot species endemic to the Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots. Its current estimated population ranges from 1,000-2,500 individuals (IUCN, 2011) in an area that includes south eastern Brazil, north eastern Argentina and eastern Paraguay.

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The species remains at one locality or it is spread to more subpopulations?

It’s spread. Many subpopulations do not exceed 250 individuals and it is considered extinct in many parts of its original range, including the Araucárias National Park until 2010, when the project started. Aiming to contribute to A. vinacea conservation, our on-going project was initiated in 2010 in order to reintroduce the species at the Araucárias National Park (ANP) giving it the social-environmental support necessary for the long term establishment of a viable population. Vinaceous Amazon was historically present the municipalities of Ponte Serrada and Passos Maia in Santa Catarina, Brazil (S 26° 39’-26°52’, W 51° 47’-52° 02’) which now constitutes the ANP.

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What’s the biggest threat for this species?

Their main threats are human actions such as poaching to supply illegal wildlife trade (both national and international) and habitat destruction and fragmentation. The unsustainable collection of pinhão is also problematic, since it is the seed of Araucaria angustifolia (Brazilian pine), a critically endangered native conifer that they use to nest and for food supply.

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(c) Vanessa Kanaan

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(c) Vanessa Kanaan

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How many birds have you released back into the wild?

Since 2010, a total of 76 birds have been released back into the wild. There has been three release events: 13 parrots in January 2011 (Kanaan and Reche, 2012), 30 in September 2013 and 33 in June 2015. A further thirteen birds are currently going through rehabilitation for release in early 2016.

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Can you tell us more about the facility where do you keep all the birds?

Since we did not have our own rehabilitation facility until recently, each group went through quarantine and was prepared in a different place. The first release group was kept at the Florianopolis CETAS, the second was kept in a secluded area of the Escola Sarapiquá in Florianopolis, and the last two groups has been kept in our facilities, Instituto Espaço Silvestre, in Itajaí, Santa Catarina. The birds are received from local authorities for rehabilitation and those who do not pass the health and behavioral criteria are sent to zoos or other licensed keeper with the authorization from the government agencies.

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You work with confiscated individuals only or also with the captive bred birds?

A total of 76 Vinaceous-breasted Amazons, of which 69 were victims of illegal wildlife trade (confiscated or voluntarily returned to the authorities by illegal owners), 6 were offspring of confiscated birds born at the Curitiba Zoo (captive bred)  and 1 was a fledgling rescued at the ANP, have been rehabilitated, released and monitored.

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(c) Vanessa Kanaan

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(c) Vanessa Kanaan

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How do you prepare all the birds before you release them?

During the pre-release phase, which lasts 4-6 months, data on behaviour, weight and biometry is collected. The candidates usually show behavioural deficiencies and are trained daily to look for and manipulate natural food items, to interact with conspecifics, to fly continuously with a fake radio-collar and to avoid predators, including humans.

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Are the birds tested on diseases before you release them back to the wild? Are you aware of a risk of disease introduction to their natural habitat ?

All veterinary exams suggested by the Brazilian government agencies through IBAMA Instrução Normativa 179 and SISBIO license are performed. Parrots that pass the health and behavioural criteria, receive microchips, radio-colars, leg bands from the National Center for Bird Conservation of Brazil (CEMAVE) go through an acclimation period at the release site, which was chosen because it offers the resources necessary for their adaptation (food, shelter, tree holes for nesting)

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Why did you choose Araucarias National Park as the optimal site for release?

ANP provides high quality habitat for the Vinaceous-breasted Parrot, as it provide both nest cavities and food availability from many trees, including the Araucaria angustifolia tree. The local threats include the presence of domestic animals, over-harvesting of Araucária seeds and illegal nest poaching, which was the probable cause for local extirpation. In order to improve the chances of reintroduction success, a program to educate and generate work and extra income to the local community was implemented to contribute to the socioeconomic development and environmental protection. Scientific information gathered has been shared with the scientific community and general public.

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(c) Vanessa Kanaan

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How do you monitor the birds after release?

Birds are monitored monthly by our team through radio telemetry (for as long as the radio-collar batteries last), visualizations, vocalizations and also daily by reports/photos from community members trained for this specific purpose as part of a citizen science program.

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What’s the mortality of released birds?

The project has shown Amazona vinacea, victis of wildlife illegal trade, can be successfully rehabilitated for reintroduction purposes Released birds have adapted well to the natural environment, although there was a confirmed mortality of 28% since January 2011. At least 6 pairs were identified (others observed) 1 tree hole used as a nest was located, a total of 10 offspring have been observed and one was rescued after falling in the ground and failure of reunion with the parents.  These results indicate that it is possible to reduce threats at the release area with programs focused on socioeconomic development and environmental protection.

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How is this project funded?

The project has been made possible through the help of more than 300 volunteers along with institutional partners like ICMBio, IBAMA, Passos Maia and Ponte Serrada city halls, SAVE Brasil/Birdlife International and Nossa Rádio. Funding comes from private donors, businesses and other NGO’s, such as Fundação Grupo O Boticário de Proteção à Natureza, Politrade, Biofaces, Taroii Investiment Group, Celulose Irani S.A. and Zoologische Gesellschaft für Arten und Populationsschutz e.V. In addition, volunteers gather funds by holding yard sales and running a parrot symbolic adoption program. The project is constantly looking for new partners and financial support; and anyone interested may contact me to help us save A. vinacea!

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(c) Vanessa Kanaan

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You had a chance to compare releasing of captive bred and wild caught birds. Is there any difference?

We only released 6 captive bred Vinaceous Amazons, which is a very small number compared to the confiscated birds. The captive bred amazons were the offspring of confiscated birds born at the Curitiba Zoo, raised by their parents in large enclosures. The health evaluation revealed they did not have any of the diseases tested, which is a difference compared to the confiscated birds that have historically tested positive for parasites and diseases like chlamydia for instance. The behavioral analyses showed that they were similar to the confiscated birds as they responded to natural predators. Their flight ability was excellent, they learned how to recognize and interact with natural food items in their wild state and all of them showed avoidance to humans, which was different than some confiscated birds. All of the birds went through quarantine and the behavioral preparation occurred together, as a group, so they could learn from each other and how to interact with conspecifics.

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Are you also involved in protection of any other parrot species in Brazil?

Yes, I am oficially involved with the Brazilian National Action Plan (PAN) for the Spix´s Macaw Conservation, the PAN for the Conservation of Birds of the Atlantic Forest , PAN for Conservation of Parrots of the Atlantic Rainforest  and the oficial Captive Breeding Programs of the Anodorhynchus leari and Cyanopsitta spixii.

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Title photo: (c) Vanessa Kanaan

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