I can't imagine what it must've been like to stumble across the beautiful, the amazing, the mind blowing Araripe manakin (Antilophia bokermanni).
What a bird! In a million years I couldn't even design a bird that looked like that using all the colours of the rainbow...mind you, there is no black in the rainbow, so I would be at a disadvantage from the start!
Anyway, I'm going off subject. This species is within the genus Antilophia which it shares with just one species, the helmeted manakin (Antilophia galeata). This species, although still quite beautiful, is potentially the most Darth Vader look a like of all birds! You can practically see it designing the Death Star! It's even helmeted! (see fig. A)
|Fig. A. Manakin Skywalker trys to turn his only relative to the dark side|
First of all we've got the name...if you go on Youtube and search for 'talking dogs'...the husky that says 'I love you' almost certainly could have 'Araripe manakin' in its repertoire! (Maybe I've just had to say Araripe manakin in my head too much whilst researching this blog post...)
Secondly, they say the star that shines twice as bright lives half as long. This metaphor could well be used to describe the conservation status of our lovely manakin. They are certainly one of the prettiest birds in the world, but the question as to how long the species may exist isn't quite such a pretty picture. The species is incredibly rare and is currently listed as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small known range, within which it is subject to continuing pressure from agriculture and the development of recreational facilities in the local area.
It's therefore not all that surprising that this species was only seen for the first time in 1996. Subsequent censuses in the area to assess population have come up with an estimate of 800 birds, so the ongoing decline of the population is potentially only going to end one way!
It's not all bad news though! The Araripe manakin has one thing going for it that several critically endangered species conventionally do not...it's bloody gorgeous! As a result, this little superstar has many fans. The area of forest adjacent to the breeding habitat is protected as an area designated for 'sustainable use', however this is not the case for the known breeding habitat of the species, so it is not an area exempt from exploitation just like the vast majority of the rest of the rainforest. However, the local land owner of the forest is charmed by the presence of the species and has set out to conserve it himself by personally extending the conservation area.
Maybe this species having such a restricted area is a positive, despite making it so vulnerable to change. It means that in an area so susceptible to exploitation; the Amazon Rainforest, a small area is much easier to conserve.
When Zac's not counting birds on patch (or making references to Star Wars), he's usually ringing birds on his regular Bangor site or is depressed that he does't have the money or time to twitch the latest big thing. Zac is 21 and currently studying a Research Masters at Bangor University and investigating Welsh Twite; adding a touch of science to his birding.