A little blue macaw by the name of Presley has died at the age of 40-years-old. Not only was he the last surviving wild-born Spix’s macaw, but his life story inspired the 2011, Twentieth Century Fox movie, Rio.
The Spix’s macaw could only be found in Brazil and in 1990 international efforts began to save the bird from extinction; unfortunately they only had eighteen parrots available for breeding purposes. By the year 2000 the species was extinct in the wild. With the release of Presley’s story in the movie Rio, there were only 78 Spix’s Macaws in existence.
Presley’s story was an all-too-familiar tale about the illegal exotic animal trade. He was smuggled out of São Francisco Valley in northern Bahia in the 70’s, and traveled through several private bird collections in Europe before ending up as a pet in a Colorado home. It was not until the year 2002 that Mickey Santi, a parrot enthusiast, answered the phone in the veterinarian's office she worked at, only to discover the person on the other end had a question about her captive Spix's macaw that was sick.
Unable to believe what she had just heard, Santi went to the woman’s home and found Presley in a cage and he was very sick. After six months of rehabilitation, negotiations, and red tape, Presley finally returned to Brazil with the help of the San Diego Zoo. There was new hope for the Spix’s macaw conservation efforts.
Most of the captive Spix’s macaws have been inbred to the point that the offspring they do produce are not healthy. So the introduction of Presley to the breeding program was celebrated. The celebration did not last long when the clutch of 13 eggs that Presley and his mate Flor produced while at the Lymington Foundation turned out to be infertile. Flor was sent off to Germany to help their breeding program, and Presley got a new friend named Killer, a Golden Conure who died in 2013. After Killer’s death, Presley’s new friend was Priscilla, an Amazon parrot.
Unlike the movie Rio, Presley was never able to feel freedom again. The health issues he incurred by being smuggled out of his native home land, left him flightless, it also left him with an enlarged liver. Although he did travel, it was never by his own wings. The exotic animal trade had left him only a shadow of the former beautiful-blue-majestic bird he once was when he was young and free in the Brazilian jungle… To learn more about the illegal parrot trade, visit the World Parrot Trust website.