Juliette, the last wild macaw in Rio de Janeiro, is alone and seeks love

RIO DE JANEIRO – 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 believed to be the only wild bird of its kind that remains in the Brazilian city where birds once flew in the distance.

Almost every morning for two decades, Juliette has appeared. She swoops in on the zoo enclosure where the macaws are kept and, through her fence, engages in grooming behavior that resembles a marital canood. Sometimes she just sits savoring the presence of others. Is she calmer – more shy? more timid ? – than his squawking buddies.

Blue and yellow macaws live to be around 35 years old, and Juliet – no spring chicken – should have found a life partner years ago, according to Neiva Guedes, president of the Hyacinth Macaw Institute, an environmental group. But Juliet hasn’t mated, built nests, or had chicks, so at best she is still “dating.”

“They are social birds, and that means they don’t like living alone, whether in the wild or in captivity. They need companionship,” said Guedes, who also coordinates a research project on the birds. macaws in urban settings. Juliette “very probably feels lonely, and for this reason goes into the enclosure to communicate and interact”.

Aside from Juliette, the last sighting of a blue and yellow macaw flying freely in Rio dates back to 1818 by an Austrian naturalist, according to Marcelo Rheingantz, a biologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and there is no other types of macaws in the city. The lovebirds featured in the 2011 movie “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.

Biologists at BioParque aren’t sure if Juliet’s muzzle is confined 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 visually and requires either genetic testing of feathers or blood or examination of the gonads.

Either would be interference just to satisfy human curiosity without a scientific aim, biologist Angelita Capobianco said inside the compound. They also wouldn’t consider confining Juliette, who often hovers overhead and appears to be well-fed.

“We don’t want to project human feelings. I look at the animal and I see an animal at ease,” Capobianco said, noting that Juliette never exhibited behavior indicating disturbance, such as insistently pecking at the fence. .

“Who am I to decide that he should only stay here? I won’t. He comes and goes, and his 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 its macaws more space: a 1,000-square-meter (10,700-square-foot) aviary where they fly alongside green parrots and golden parakeets to compose an aerial whirlpool in technicolor. This is a massive upgrade from previous cases of 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 the species associated with research programs of universities and institutes. One of these initiatives is Refauna, which is reintroducing species to protected areas with a view to 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 danger of predators and avoiding 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 is a large animal with a large beak that can break larger seeds, and not all birds can,” said Rheingantz, the university biologist. , who is also the technical coordinator of Refauna. “The idea is that he starts scattering these seeds, complementing the forest animals that can’t.”

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 away with friends. Neves said Juliet could teach them how to navigate the forest, or even find a love of her own.

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