A routine check-up in 2010 revealed that only one Black-fronted Piping-guan was left in the mountain range of Sierra do Mar, São Paulo. Wasting no time, the team of SAVE Brasil built a huge enclosure camouflaged in the Atlantic Forest to start a reintroduction programme. Six years later, the situation is being reverted: the birds are adapting and the locals are making sure their homes stay intact.
The Black-fronted Piping-guan Pipile jacutinga is a globally threatened species endemic to the Atlantic Forest of South America. As a consequence of poaching and habitat loss, this species is now locally extinct in big part of its original distribution, such as the Brazilian states of Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo and Bahia. Originally, it was found from South Bahia to Rio Grande do Sul, Northern Argentina and Paraguay.
There are many programmes that have been successful in breeding this species in captivity, representing an opportunity for its reintroduction and population reinforcement. Considering the significant threat that the Black-fronted Piping-guan has been suffering throughout the years with substantial population declines, SAVE Brasil (BirdLife Partner) initiated its program “Conservation of Game Birds in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest: Reintroduction and Monitoring of the Black-fronted Piping-guan” in 2010.
The project aims to implement a reintroduction and monitoring programme for Black-fronted Piping-guans, increasing the species’ population through captive management and release of individuals, thus raising the species conservation status.
Projeto Jacutinga began in 2010 when a census was conducted in Serra do Mar, in the state of São Paulo, focusing on two bird families: Cracidae (chachalacas, guans and curassows) and Tinamidae (tinamous and nothuras). Along 160 km of transects covered during 1 year, only one single Black-fronted Piping-guan individual was recorded. This was worrying, as this bird has an important ecological role, since it swallows whole fruits and disperses seeds that can help the re-growth of forests.
This first census revealed that the species’ population was highly depleted and on the brink of local extinction in the region. A new population census was held in Serra da Mantiqueira in 2015 and not a single Black-fronted Piping-guan was recorded in the region. Species management measures such as population reinforcement were deemed necessary and urgent to conserve the population in the long term.
Following the census, the need for a population reinforcement programme for the species became apparent. Adaptation and rehabilitation enclosures for Black-fronted Piping-guan were built in two areas – Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and Serra da Mantiqueira, in the state of São Paulo.
The enclosures are about 15 meters long, 8 m wide and 8 m tall and are placed inside the Atlantic Forest to allow the birds to practice flight and enable them to acclimatize to the release area.
In March 2016, a group of Black-fronted Piping-guans from a private breeder (CESP-Companhia Energética de São Paulo) was transferred to the rehabilitation enclosure in Serra da Mantiqueira where pre-release preparations were held. During 3 months the birds went through flight, feeding and predator recognition trainings, along with assessments of the social interaction between individuals and tracing of their behavior profiles.
Finally, on the 28th of June 2016, the first 9 Black-fronted Piping-guans were released in Serra da Mantiqueira. Today these birds are being monitored by satellite transmitters, field visits and through the participation of the local community, by encouraging birdwatching.
One week after the release, the project team received the news of a Black-fronted Piping-guan sighting by a local resident in a property located 1 km from the enclosure. This individual was only sighted again near the enclosure 6 days after the release and he was accompanied by one of the released females.
The project team is very excited with release results so far, as the guans seem to be adapting and interacting well with the natural environment. Besides the individual who was sighted far from the enclosure, the others are also being seen in the forest feeding on fruits.
Besides the releases and monitoring, the project is also focused in education. Since 2015, more than 40 educational activities have already been held involving almost 1,200 people. Besides, nine capacity building workshops have been conducted for over 100 teachers of public schools in the region.
This article was first published by BirdLife International on 14 Aug 2016.