Cowichan Valley macaws could help save a species

It’s a good-news story with global impact, rooted right here in the Cowichan Valley.

Seventeen blue-throated macaws – a critically endangered species endemic to a tiny part of Bolivia – that were raised in Shawnigan Lake by life-long parrot fan April Sanderson, made their way from Vancouver Island to Bolivia, by way of Toronto in August, in an attempt to help revive the wild population.

To evaluate the status of the blue-throated macaw, consider that the World Parrot Trust estimates that for every individual bird in the wild, there are 3,750 African elephants, 200 rhinos, 12 giant pandas, and six mountain gorillas.

Release programs aren’t without controversy, but with the blue-throated macaw wild population estimated at around 125 birds in an area the size of Vancouver Island, Sanderson feels it is the only way to keep the species alive.

"With numbers so low, I don’t believe they can recover without human intervention," she said. Breeding pairs typically have one chick per year, and chick survival rates are low, so the introduction of Sanderson’s birds should help boost the population. Among the 17 birds are five breeding pairs representing nine different bloodlines. It’s probably one of the most diverse groups in North America, which will make for a much deeper gene pool.

Not all 17 will make it to the wild, a fact Sanderson had to come to grips with.

"I’m not being naive about it," she said.

"I know some of them are going to die, but what are the species’ chances? Our generation could be the last one to see them." Sanderson’s participation in the project is the culmination of a lifetime with the birds. "I’ve had parrots since I was a child," she said. "I got my first one when I was nine, and I’ve worked with them all my life."

She started breeding birds for the pet trade, but soon realized it was a nasty business and that many parrots end up in unfortunate circumstances.

"A lot of people don’t know how to care for parrots," she related.

Sanderson then decided to breed parrots for the World Parrot Trust’s conservation program, which took a lot of work. She required plenty of permits and contracts, and had to keep the macaws quarantined for five years – even the owners of other parrots were forbidden from having contact with Sanderson’s birds. They also required a minimum of three hours of labour a day, seven days a week, which took a toll on family holidays. That’s not to mention the hundreds of dollars it cost each month in order to keep the birds fed and sheltered.

"It has been hard for my family to understand," Sanderson admitted.

Once in Bolivia, the birds would be closely watched as they began their time in aviaries, developing their flight wings, transitioning to a new diet and getting accustomed to the South American climate.

Just Posted

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Mariah Segee (centre) was named 2021 Lady of the Lake last Saturday, with Megan Rowbottom (left) as first princess, and Macey Anderson (right) as second princess. (Submitted)
Lady of the Lake returns to Lake Cowichan

Mariah Segee takes the crown in first pageant since 2018

Darren Campbell's truck was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch (pictured) on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
UPDATE: Cowichan Bay Good Samaritan’s stolen truck recovered

‘Very much appreciated the help from so many people. I hope the very best for all of you’

Threads N Tails owner Lee-Ann Burke’s pet clothing has been featured on the cover of the June/July issue of Pet Connection Magazine. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan business featured on magazine cover

Lee-Ann Burke hopes the extra publicity will increase sales

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

Most Read