EVERYBODY LOVES A cockatoo, so why is this world such a disaster zone for these marvellous creatures in their wild state? The case of the Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), a typical white cockatoo, sums up the plight of most species.
It has been trapped for the pet trade way past any limit of sustainability. Its required habitat – lowland forest and mangroves – has been destroyed throughout its range. Where it eats crops it is shot as a pest, and it is also occasionally hunted for food. The times are against it. All over the world, large, edible birds experience the same difficulties.
Take the curassows and guans (Cracidae) in Central and South America. These superb relatives of the gamebirds are kept in many zoos and bird parks, as well as in a few larger private collections – and those are the only places where most bird fans will ever be able to admire them. If you visit Amazonia, their absence from everywhere apart from the pages of your field guide is striking. Even in this region of low human population, they have vanished, because they are the first birds to be shot or snared near any human habitations.
Not only do they become rare, they also become exceptionally wary. A few years ago I visited a forest reserve in Costa Rica, where hunting had been prevented for some decades. As a result, great curassows (Crax rubra) had become common and tame!
It was fantastic to watch these mighty creatures foraging and displaying close at hand, without fear – like travelling far back in time to the days before mankind became the enemy. Philippine cockatoos would have been common throughout their range once.
Those days are gone, I’m afraid, but perhaps a few places can be made safe for them. We are lucky to have such organisations as Fundación Loro Parque working to preserve their future in the wild, as you can read on page 10. Rear-and-release schemes by skilled aviculturists are essential to the future of many of this planet’s most magnificent birds. We must support them.
■ Heartfelt condolences from the Cage & Aviary Birds team to the family and friends of the eminent budgerigar fancier and former BS president Dennis Brown. A full obituary will appear in due course.