RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Some have claimed that she is indulging in a forbidden romance. More likely, loneliness forces him to seek company at the Rio de Janeiro Zoo.
Regardless, a blue-and-yellow macaw that zookeepers named Juliet is considered the only wild bird of its kind in the Brazilian city where birds once flew in the distance.
Almost every morning for two decades, Juliette has appeared. She rushes into the zoo enclosure where the macaws are kept and, through her fence, engages in grooming behavior that resembles marital canoodling. Sometimes she just sits down, relishing the presence of others. Is she calmer – more shy? more timid? – that his peeping friends.
According to Neiva Guedes, president of the Hyacinth Macaw Institute, an environmental group, blue and yellow macaws live to be around 35 years old, and Juliet – no spring chicken – should have found a lifelong mate years ago. But Juliette hasn’t mated, built a nest, or had any chicks, so at most she “still just comes out”.
“They are social birds, and that means they don’t like living alone, either in the wild or in captivity. They need companionship, ”said Guedes, who is also coordinating an urban macaw research project. Juliette “most likely feels alone, and for this reason comes to the compound to communicate and interact.”
Aside from Juliet, the last sighting of a free-flying blue and yellow macaw in Rio was in 1818 by an Austrian naturalist, according to Marcelo Rheingantz, a biologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and there is no no other types of macaws in town. The lovebirds featured in the 2011 film “Rio” are Spix’s macaws, native to another region of Brazil and possibly extinct in the wild.
Being loud with bright plumage helps macaws navigate the dense forest, but also makes them easier targets for hunters and animal traffickers. They are often seen in other Brazilian states and across the Amazon, and Juliet is suspected to have escaped captivity.
BioParque biologists aren’t sure Juliet’s nose is limited to a caged Romeo, or a few of them. They are not even sure that Juliette is a woman; The sex of the macaw is almost impossible to determine on sight and requires either genetic testing of the feathers or blood or examination of the gonads.
Either would be interference just to satisfy endless scientific human curiosity, biologist Angelita Capobianco said inside the compound. They would also not consider confining Juliette, who often hovers above her head and appears to be well fed.
“We don’t want to project human feelings. I look at the animal and see an animal at ease, ”Capobianco said, noting that Juliette had never shown behavior indicative of disturbance, such as insistently pecking the fence.
“Who am I to decide that he should only stay here?” I do not want. It comes and goes, and its feathers are beautiful.
After more than a year of COVID-19 quarantine and travel bans, the lure of unrestricted roaming is evident to humanity. Macaws are used to traveling great distances of over 30 kilometers (20 miles) per day, Guedes said.
Last year, BioParque gave more space to its macaws: a 1,000-square-meter (10,700-square-foot) aviary where they fly alongside green parrots and golden parakeets to compose an aerial, technicolor whirlwind. This is a massive upgrade from previous speakers which were around 100 square feet. BioParque reopened to the public in March, following the privatization of Rio’s dilapidated zoo and nearly 17 months of renovations.
BioParque aims to present species associated with research programs of universities and institutes. One of these initiatives is Refauna, which is reintroducing species to protected areas with the aim of rebuilding ecosystems, and is participating with BioParque to start raising blue and yellow macaws.
The plan is for the parents to raise around 20 chicks who will receive training on forest food sources, the peril of predators and avoidance of power lines. Then, the young people will be released into the huge Tijuca Forest National Park in Rio, where Juliette has been sighted and is believed to be sleeping every night.
“Their role could be important in terms of ecosystem and reforestation. It’s a big animal with a big beak that can crack larger seeds, and not all birds can, ”said Rheingantz, the university biologist, who is also Refauna’s technical coordinator. “The idea is that he begins to disperse these seeds, complementing the forest animals who cannot.”
After some pandemic-induced delays, the project has slowly restarted and Rheingantz plans to release blue and yellow macaws in Tijuca Park towards the end of 2022.
After two decades of relative solitude, Juliette will then have the chance to fly with friends. Neves said Juliet could teach them how to navigate the forest, or even find her love.
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