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Spix's Macaw: The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird [Paperback]

Tony Juniper
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

5 May 2003

An environmental parable for our times – the story of a beautiful blue bird meeting its nemesis at the end of the 20th-century.

In December 1897 the Reverend F. G. Dutton lamented that ‘there are so many calls on a parson’s purse, that he cannot always treat himself to expensive parrots.’ He was hoping to purchase a Spix’s Macaw, a rare and beautiful parrot found in a remote area of Brazil. Today, the parson’s search would be in vain. By the turn of the millennium only one survivor, a lone male, existed in the wild.

Spix’s Macaw tells the hearbreaking story of a unique band of brilliant blue birds – who talk, fall in love, and grieve – struggling against the forces of extinction and their own desirability. By the second half of the 20th-century the birds became gram for gram more valuable than heroin; so valuable that they drew up to $40,000 on the black markets. When, in 1990, only one was found to be living in the wild, an emergency international rescue operation was launched and an amnesty declared, allowing private collectors to come forward with their illegal birds, possible mates for the last wild Spix.

In a breathtaking display of stoicism and endurance, the loneliest bird in the world had lived without a mate for fourteen years, had outwitted predators and second-guessed the poachers. But would he take to a new companion? Spix’s Macaws are like humans – they can’t be forced to love. With exquisite detail, this book tells the dramatic story of the rescue operation, and of the humans whose selfishness and greed brought a beautiful species to the brink of extinction. The long, lonely flight of the last Spix’s Macaw is both a love story and an environmental parable for our times.


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Spix's Macaw: The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird + Darwin: A Life in Poems (Vintage Classics) + Stranger On A Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (5 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841156515
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841156514
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 466,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘This book is not primarily about biology, but about human egos and greed, and it is difficult to read it without wanting to weep…In this wise, angry and important book, Tony Juniper demonstrates that disagreement over the proper tactics for rescuing species near extinction is one of the prime forces that can drive them over the brink.’ William Ashworth, TLS

‘A heartbreaking but encouraging book; as we were the agents of its downfall, so must we be of its salvation.’ Richard Ellis, The Times

‘Gripping and beautifully told.’ Country Life

‘This is a triumph of passionate writing, a work of courage and importance. Read it and you will weep for the world, but read it you must.’ Roger Deakin, BBC Wildlife Magazine

‘Tony Juniper is a gifted storyteller…a joyful celebration of the natural world.’ Guardian

From the Back Cover

"Not only were we in the presence of the last Spix's Macaw at Curaca – it was the last wild Spix's Macaw anywhere…Unlike all other mortal creatures that must one day face the inevitable reality of their own demise, the death of this bird would mark the end not only of himself but his entire kind."

In December 1897 the Honourable and Reverend F.G. Dutton lamented that 'there are so many calls on a parson's purse, that he cannot always treat himself to expensive parrots'. He was hoping to purchase a Spix's Macaw, a rare and beautiful parrot found in a remote area of Brazil. Today, the parson's search for a Spix would be in vain. By the turn of the millenium, only one survivor existed in the wild.

'Spix's Macaw' tells the heartbreaking story of a unique band of brilliant blue birds – who talk, fall in love, and grieve – struggling against the forces of extinction. Discovered in the early nineteenth century, the Spix soon became the most expensive bird in the world. By the end of the twentieth century the birds became gram-for-gram more valuable than heroin; so treasured that they drew up to $40,000 on the black market. When, in 1990, only one was found to be living in the wild, an amnesty was declared allowing private collectors to come forward with their illegal birds. The last Spix would be paired with a captive bird, in the hope that the secrets of survival in the wild would be passed down to future generations.

In a breathtaking display of stoicism and endurance, the loneliest bird in the world had lived without a mate for fourteen years, had outwitted predators and second-guessed the poachers. But would he take to a new companion? Spix's Macaws are like humans – they can't be forced to love. With exquisite detail, this book tells the dramatic story of the international rescue operation, and of the humans whose selfishness and greed brought a beautiful species to the brink of extinction. The long, lonely flight of the last Spix's Macaw is both a love story and an environmental parable for our times.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading 4 Mar 2003
Format:Hardcover
This book should be required reading not only for those interested in parrots or environmentalism but EVERYONE. Juniper illustrates how the whole world contributes to the gradual extinction of a species. There is much more to think about in this tale than just the fate of the ultra-rare and beautiful Six's macaw. At times this book may drive you to despair for the state of the world, but as is mentioned in the text: "where there's life, there's hope." Macaws do make wonderful pets, as I can personally testify; but we have an obligation to see that they are preserved in the wild and not just captivity because, as Juniper shows, every last bit of the world's ecosystem is relevant to us all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful storytelling 20 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A great mix of facts and stories. Easy to read and the message about the needs for conservation in relation to people are well set out. All facets of the Spix's Macaw are told. A touching and tragic story that is still unfolding. Gives you a heavy heart as many other animals are in the same predicament as the Spix's Macaw. Once an animal is extinct it's lost forever still doesn't seem to strike home for some people who'd rather own the last ones.
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5.0 out of 5 stars birds 12 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Thiscis the story of the attempts to prevent the extinvtion of the Spix macaw (the blue parrot)first discovered by Johann vonSpix(1781-1826)in 1819 in Brazil.
By 1990 only one Spix macaw was still living in the wild and action was taken to prevent it dying out by trying to persuade owners of captive birds to participate in a breeding programme.
A recovery committee was formed but with greed,jealously,corruption and deficiencies in the Brazilian government it all came to naught by 2000.
Very well written ond researched the book finishes in 2002 with some hints of optimism.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book , well worth the money 26 Dec 2002
Format:Hardcover
This book should have been written many years ago. These precious Spix macaws are now extinct in the wild and only around 60 left in captivity. If this type of information could have been released many many years ago , maybe things would have been different. More of this type of literature should be made available to the general public , in order for something to be done about the illegal trapping for rich buyers in Spain , Phillapines and Switzerland. Thease are truely rare and beautiful parrots, and after readibf this book I have to see one before it is too late....maybe it is too late.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spix's Macaw 21 Aug 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book wonderfully illustrates the difficult, if not impossible, task of trying to save endangered species. It includes accurate descriptions of the birds, the landscape, the politics and the strange mix of characters that worked together to save the Spix's macaws. By the end of the book, you are waiting with bated breath to find out the fate of the Spix's Macaw. If you have an interest in ecology and/or birds, you will love this book!
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