For an environmentalist, few things are as satisfying as when carefully planned conservation works out as intended. In Brazil, a special bird called the Alagoas curassow is now back in the jungle after three decades of being preserved in a scientific-breeding facility in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The bird is the first case of the reintroduction of an animal declared extinct in the wild in Latin America, and one of just a handful in the world.
The journey that led to the Alagoas curassow’s resurrection started four decades ago, thanks to the obstinacy of Pedro Nardelli, a businessman who kept a scientific bird-breeding facility in Nilópolis, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. In 1979, he traveled to the metropolitan region of Maceió, in Alagoas state, looking for specimens of the curassow, a red-billed, black-bodied, fowl-like bird.
The bird was rarely seen and hunting had driven populations down, but Nardelli was able to capture five curassows in a forest area that, ironically enough, would give way to a new sugar and ethanol plant.
Back in Rio de Janeiro, Nardelli managed to get one of the male curassows and two of the females to reproduce. The trio would spawn the sole lineage responsible for passing on the species’ DNA. Now, after years of scouting for a safe, hunter-free habitat, six individual Alagoas curassows were transferred by plane and released back in its natural habitat.
Thanks to the satellite tags, the researchers will be able to monitor literally every step of the six newly released birds. If the curassows succeed in the challenge of evading natural enemies such as small wildcats and prove themselves able to generate offspring, the task force’s plan is to release three more pairs into the wild each year until 2024.