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“5 and Counting: Scientists Race to Save a Species from Mosquito-Driven Extinction

In recent news, researchers have noted an alarming trend in the world of wild biodiversity: the rapid decline of one species of bird, the Spix’s Macaw, which is currently placed on the critically endangered list with just five birds left in the wild. The cause? Mosquitoes. Under study, researchers have been monitoring the impact of a particular species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti which has been responsible for carrying and transmitting tropical disease – Dengue Fever, Zika and Chikungunya – to humans and domestic animals. But it appears that’s not the only thing this species of mosquito is responsible for. According to Professor Paulo De Marco, who has been studying the species since 1988, the mosquito is also responsible for wiping out the population of the Spix’s Macaw. The bird’s current situation of near-extinction can be attributed to the proliferation of these mosquitoes which have been spreading out far and wide throughout the bird’s natural habitat in Brazil. The birds have been facing a great struggle to survive with a combined onslaught of parasites, diseases and the mosquito’s direct bite which saps the bird of its energy. The mosquitoes can lay up to 1000 eggs in the warm climate and are also considered highly resistant to insecticides. Without any natural predators, the bird’s situation is becoming increasingly more grim as the female mosquitoes are able to reproduce with no natural restraint. As such, researchers are now engaged in a race against time to save the species from total extinction. In recent years, various conservation groups have launched initiatives in order to combat the issue and certain strategies are already being put into motion. By reducing the number of mosquitoes within the bird’s fragmented habitat, there is still hope for the bird’s chance of survival. Efforts are also being made to educate the public and to raise awareness on the need to protect the bird’s environment from further deterioration. With any luck, the five remaining wild birds may restore their population back into the thousands. Only time will tell if these initiatives are able to turn the tide for the Spix’s Macaw.