]oe deAguiar is dead. But his vision for the AF A still lives in the memories of a few of us who worked with him in the formative years of the AF A.
deAguiar was an AF A officer who envisioned the AF A headquarters in a skyscraper building situated in the midst of a park-like breeding facility. To him, the AFA was the leader in aviculture and avian conservation - the trailblazer and pathfinder. We've moved more slowly than deAguiar expected but it seems to me that his vision is becoming a reality. I believe that the AF A is the guiding force in aviculture and the entity that must set the goals, define the philosophy and bind together the tens of thousands of people and organizations who keep and breed birds.
Actually, many of you may not know that several times the AF A seriously looked around for a few acres that could serve as a breeding/ rehabilitation center for birds and also house the AF A Home Office. At the time, quite a few years ago, property in Missouri and Oklahoma was considered but not found suitable for one reason or another. Consider, though, what could be accomplished with an APA-owned, world class breeding facility. We may not be quite ready for an installation the size and grandeur of deAguiar's vision but please be thinking in these terms. Do not be sur-
prised to learn that AFA members have continued to quietly explore the possibilities of a highly professional breeding trust or foundation on AF A property.
As the ecological crisis grows throughout the world, more and more plants and animals are threatened with extinction, primarily through loss of habitat. What can be done? The first step to take, obviously, is to preserve as much natural habitat as possible. But there are many factors that militate against complete preservation of the primordial environment. Desperate, indigenous peoples with a survival mentality will continue to encroach upon the pristine forests and wilderness areas just to stay alive. And not only those people. We civilized, industrialized people also want our "necessities" such as oil, minerals, timber and water, most of which are gotten from deeper and deeper in the primitive areas of the earth. Many countries have set aside huge tracts for national parks and wilderness areas. And other entities such as The Nature Conservancy have purchased thousands of acres to keep them pristine and untouched. All of these efforts are very commendable and deserve our support. They are the first line of defense.
But these efforts only slow the trend, not stop or reverse it. We are still losing too much wilderness too fast. And many plants and animals with it. What else can be done? Well, I'm in favor of anything that buys time. It may be that the destruction of the environment will eventually decrease and perhaps even stop. I don't expect it in my lifetime, however, and I'd like to do more now. It seems to me that keeping as many bird species alive now is a better proposal than to abandon them to their precarious fate. Several world renowned zoological organizations have already addressed this situation by establishing conservation-oriented breeding and research facilities in addition to their traditional public displays. There are also several excellent private foundations whose very reason for being is to preserve certain species of animals through captive breeding.
But what about the vast resources of the tens of thousands of private aviculturists? The private sector can do vastly more avian education, research and conservation than can the public.
The private aviculturists, however, still seem to be somewhat diffused; scattered, perhaps, is the better word. The AFA, on the other hand, seems to be coming into sharper focus day by day.
The AF A is the guiding light in the avicultural world and is changing the individual bird keeper from consumer to conserver. And this is how it's being done.
= The AFA advocates and enhances the captive breeding of common and domesticated birds for the pet market. This relieves some of the demand for wild-caught birds. Very soon, domestically raised pet birds will be the only ones on the pet market.
• The AF A initiated a strong campaign against smuggling birds. It has provided anti-smuggling posters that are on display at all the border crossings between the U.S.A. and Mexico. It has aired a TV public service announcement against smuggling and it sells anti-smuggling T-shirts. AFA members have cooperated with various authorities in "sting" operations to arrest smugglers and, of course, many anti-smuggling articles have been published in AFA literature to expose the evils of smuggling.
• The AF A has awarded thousands of dollars to worthy research programs, from health and nutrition studies in the universities to field studies in the jungles. Recently, the AFA initiated its own field study of the Red-fronted Macaw and has highly respected professional biologists in Bolivia as I write this. This is only the beginning.
• AF A members have been involved in numerous captive breeding projects that have increased the number of individual specimens of many different endangered species. Just a few of these species include the Scarletchested Parakeet, the Turquoise Parakeet, the Bali Mynah, the Nene Goose, the California Condor, the Blackhooded Red Siskin, about 15 species of pheasants and many other species of birds. The number of these birds alive today is much greater than would have been the case without aviculture's helping hand.
• The AF A's Red Siskin Consortium serves as a model of cooperation among private aviculturists in an effort to bring back from the brink a critically endangered bird. Several AF A member clubs have begun their own consortiums to work with species particularly appropriate for their own
circumstances. This commendable trend is growing.
• The AF A is leading a campaign to bring aviculture out of the dark ages and into the era of high-tech professionalism. The MAP program, the AF A Exotic Bird Registry (both explained in detail elsewhere in this volume) and the use of sophisticated molecular sciences (DNA fingerprinting, etc.) are constantly advocated for the upgrading of AFA members' aviaries and techniques of avian husbandry. In short, the AF A is showing its members how to become world class professional aviculturists.
Many other good things could be said about the AF A but this Editorial/ Opinion page is not the place for a full-blown history. I feel, though, that it is important that you get a broader understanding of what the AFA is really about. According to the AFA's original charter, it is "dedicated to conservation of bird wildlife through encouragement of captive breeding programs, scientific research and education of the general public." We are fulfilling these goals more and more every day. Joe deAguiar's vision is closer than ever to realization.