13 June 2017

Good News for Brazilian Bird on the Brink

The critically endangered Cherry-throated Tanager, which numbers as few as 30 individuals, has gained a much-needed refuge in Brazil’s threatened Atlantic Forest. The 4,171-acre (1,688-hectare) private natural heritage reserve, not yet named, protects essential habitat and provides a lifeline for the species.

The Cherry-throated Tanager went unseen for more than 50 years and was believed to be extinct in the wild until 1998, when it was sighted again in privately held, well-preserved forest patches in the Caetés region of Espírito Santo. Protecting every possible acre is important in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, where only about 10 percent of original habitat remains.

The new reserve is the second-largest private protected area in the state of Espírito Santo and shelters more than 250 bird species, in addition to the Cherry-throated Tanager. Five other globally threatened birds are also found in the surrounding Caetés region: White-necked Hawk, Brown-backed Parrotlet, Golden-tailed Parrotlet, Vinaceous Amazon Parrot, and Bare-throated Bellbird. Threatened mammals, including endangered buffy-headed marmoset and brown-throated sloth, will potentially gain habitat as well.

SAVE Brasil worked with Grupo Águia Branca, one of the country’s largest transportation and logistics companies, to create this private reserve. SAVE has also been working with the state government to create a 10,625-acre (4,300-hectare) wildlife refuge adjacent to the private reserve, and American Bird Conservancy (ABC) supported SAVE on the public consultation process in 2016. ABC and SAVE’s support of the government on outreach for the wildlife refuge also helped in the creation of the private reserve.

“We hope that creation of the new reserve will accelerate the process of establishing the wildlife refuge,” said Dan Lebbin, ABC’s Vice President of International Programs. “With a total of nearly 15,000 acres (nearly 6,000 hectares), these two protected areas would contribute much-needed hope for the tanager’s survival.”

Cherry-throated Tanager occurs primarily in the forest canopy at elevations between approximately 2,800 to 4,000 feet (850 to 1,250 meters). Single individuals or groups of up to 10 birds can be found, occasionally associated with mixed-species flocks. The population may be as high as 250 but is more likely closer to 30 individual birds left in the world. Recent sightings have been of small groups of two or three tanagers observed at the same site.

The species is a candidate for designation as an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species. AZE species are those assessed as endangered or critically endangered that are restricted to one site globally. These species are those in most urgent need of conservation globally.

As few as 30 Cherry-throated Tanagers are left in the world. Photo by Ciro Albano