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Will the bird that dodged a bullet pay the price of peace?

02 / 11 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

So “new and beautiful” was the Blue-billed Curassow that when English zoologist Louis Fraser described this turkey-sized bird for science in 1850 he named it Crax alberti, after Queen Victoria’s “illustrious consort, His Royal Highness Prince Albert”. Fewer than two hundred years later, this regal bird may be reaching the end of its reign. It lives only in Colombia and is one of the world’s most critically endangered species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature says just 150-700 remain. Paradoxically, many of these birds may owe their survival to violence — and could find a new enemy in peace. Their fate is now tied to Colombia’s like never before. The Blue-billed Curassow is a secretive bird that skulks in dark corners of moist forests, foraging for insects and fallen fruit. The males are black, with white bellies, the females are black above, ruddy-brown below. Both have a punky crest of curled-up feathers. Folktales say curassows got those quiffs when they stole fire from the jaguar and gave it to humanity. As the curassows carried a burning log on their backs, the flames burnt their crest feathers into crisp curls. If there’s any truth in that story, the birds might have torched their own future prospects in aiding humanity. Roads, mining, logging, and ranching — as well as illicit coca and marijuana production — have devoured nearly 90 percent of the habitat Crax alberti needs. Hunting has compounded the loss. Back in 1965, researchers reported that the species was…

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