Saving the Blues at The Blues Conservatory


A boiling llfestyle and worldly riches aren't usually the rewards for most people raising macaws as a business venture. Often, though, there are other incentives which are as varied as all the personalitiespopulatingavicultureandvaluedevenmore highly by some than any monetary return on investment.

Some breeders become so inured to breeding macaws for passion and not prort that they can accept a business model that readily recognizes the almost certainty of never making a dime's prott from a 24/365 commitment.

Bird Endowment (BE) developed from an abiding commitment to parent-cedging Blue-throated macaws (BTMs) from Founder and Founder-cedged pairs, and doing it for generations on end. This meant holding, feeding and caring for young parent-cedged BTMs for as long as it takes them to breed (as early as Die years and some 10 years and counting), and then repeating the process with their offspring.

Also, a key assumption was unknown to BE's original business plan. Extensive experimentation was required to get some Founder Pairs to the point of cedging just one offspring per year. Three of four Founder pairs, where the male bird previously had been in eggpulling programs, were incapable of parent rearing prior to rehabilitation. Therefore, when a pair could cedge one or two offspring from a single clutch in a year, it became an occasion to celebrate success.

With this reality, the only sustainable business model became a non-profit organization that would have the potential to successfully hold these macaws for the long term. That required the participation of other people interested in the survival of the Blue-throated macaw. Part of this included going out on the circuit to convincingly preach a sermon about the necessity of parent-rearing for the continuity of the wild BTM species culture.

Laney Rickman, who isthevisionaryofBird Endowment's mission, had earlier volunteered at The Houston Zoo in 1992-1993. Working with the professionals there, she became convinced of the importance of parent-rearing, and preferably parent-cedging, whenever possible to produce birds most viable for whole-species continuity in captivity. She searched widely for additional information and studied long the scant results she found. At this time it had become accepted practice in aviculture to pull eggs and incubate them. They were then handfed by humans in what Laney terms Human Surrogate Parenting or HSP. The procedure could often result in multiple clutches of birds each season.

John Stoodley, who was the early pioneer and developer of Human Surrogate Parenting of psittacines, encouraged Laney to spread her message. He intended the process of arti cially hatching and then hand feeding the parrots with a formula only as an emergency procedure, he said. He realized that it had become a tool for breeders to increase pair productivity.

Change often is resisted, and initially many aviculturists were not receptive to the need for parent- cedging neonates. Today, however, many breeders are allowing young parrots destined for the pet market to remain in the nest box with their parents for two, three, and even more, weeks. Those who hold back future breeders have realized the importance of allowing those birds to parent cedge.

By 1998, Laney had enough people supporting her parent-cedging philosophy for the Blue-throated macaws that the organization of Bird Endowment as a 501 (c) (3)was possible with their participation. In 2001 a large individual donation made possible the acquisition of a third Founder pair as well as the construction of a large isolated habitat for them. By 2002, interest in the Blue-throated macaw project was growing and donations were increasing. By 2003, Bird Endowment was ready to assume ownership responsibility of the birds and all physical assets.

All the while the business er rather non profit business was taking shape, Laney had continued daily to work with the birds.

The previously extensive experimentations in parentcedging rehabilitation for some Founder pairs were continuing apace the development of the business model.

The rrst Founder pair started producing in the parentcedging environment that pre-existed Bird Endowment. They were generally successful.

This Founder Pair No. 1 had been in three different locations from the early 1980s through the early 1990s without producing eggs. From them, Laney learned the importance of total visual isolation for mature Bluethroated macaws. Acquired in 1992, they did not calm down and start acting like a pair until put in an area where they could see no other bird. This experience was preparation for later aggression problems with younger F1 and F2 pairs when the male reaches sexual maturity. Without visual isolation, the male becomes very aggressive and physically abusive toward the female.

Also, Founder Pair No. 1 demonstrated the inadequacy of Breederraages which had been built to the industry standard of four by four by eight feet (actually their cage was ten feet long). This pair and their two-offspringat-a-time demonstrated the unsuitability of a cage this size as a parent-cedging environment.

They were excellent parent-redqers of their offspring until the male died in March 1998. The necropsy at Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine i::where he died while being treated rwas inconclusive, but indicated old age. His death was a personal devastation, but also a wake-up call; to the fact that no one knows how much time remains to work with the Founder birds.

It was at this point that personal dedication was redoubled, but with the knowledge that what needed to be done on behalf of the imported Wild Blue-throated macaws could not be done alone. This was the start of organizing Bird Endowment as a 501 (c) (3) nonprott.

From experience with this pair, design work had started in 1996 to devise a prototype habitat for Blue-throated macaw breeders. The rrst design started from a wants list. It had to have...