CR
Blue-billed Curassow Crax alberti



Justification

Justification of Red List Category
The rate of deforestation in this species's range has been very rapid over recent decades, such that little habitat remains. It is projected that it could undergo an extremely rapid population reduction given increased access and hunting, and therefore qualifies as Critically Endangered.

Population justification
The population has been estimated at around 2,200 individuals, based on a population density estimate of 1.1 individuals/km2 and an estimated extent of remaining habitat of 2,000km(Renjifo et al. 2016). This roughly equates to 1,467 mature individuals, placed here in the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species has declined dramatically owing to habitat loss and hunting pressure. Given that protection is inadequate throughout the majority of its restricted range (even within protected areas), very rapid declines are suspected to be ongoing. An estimated 7.84% of forest within the species's range was lost between 2000 and 2010 (Renjifo et al. 2016), which is equivalent to a 25% reduction across three generations, but the rate of population decline was likely to have been higher than this due to hunting. It is projected that the species could undergo an extremely rapid population reduction in the future given increased access and hunting. The past reduction is therefore placed in the band 50-79% and the future reduction is placed in the band 80-100%.

Distribution and population

This species historically occurred in northern Colombia, from the base of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta west to the Sinú valley and south in the Magdalena valley to northern Tolima.  Relatively recent records have been obtained from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Serranía de San Jerónimo, the Serranía de San Lucas, the northeast of Antioquia, the north of the Cordillera Central and the Serranía de las Quinchas. The largest number of recent records have come from the region of the northeast of Antioquia, the north of the Cordillera Central and the Serranía de las Quinchas (Stiles et al. 1999, Carillo et al. 2015). Surveys conducted in 2003 suggested that the latter area holds the population stronghold of this species, which contributed to the establishment of El Paujíl Bird Reserve (Quevedo et al. 2005). The species has been recorded at two sites on the west slope of the Serranía de San Lucas, Antioquia (Cuervo and Salaman 1999, A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, L. Dávalos in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000) and evidence was found of the existence of populations on both sides of the Serranía (Salaman and Donegan 2001). Records were obtained in 2009 from the northern end of the Western Cordillera on the Serranía de San Jerónimo, within the buffer zone of the Paramillo National Park (Mayorquin 2010). Records have also been made in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in recent years, with important populations in the Buritaca, Guachaca and Frio river basins, as well as inside Tayrona National Park and its buffer zone (Strewe et al. 2010, Pineda-Guerrero et al. 2012). A density of 1.1 individuals/km2 was found in the Besotes Eco-Park, on the southeastern slope of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in 2006-2007 (Mendoza et al. 2008). The species was last recorded in the Serranía de San Jacinto, Bolívar and at La Terretera near Alto Sinú in 1993 (R. S. R. Williams in litt. 1999; Carrillo et al. 2015). 

Since the 1980s, the species has undergone a rapid population reduction across its range (Cuervo and Salaman 1999, A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, L. Dávalos in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000, Salaman and Donegan 2001, Cabarcas et al. 2008, D. Caro in litt. 2009, Carillo et al. 2015). An estimated 7.84% of forest within the species's range was lost between 2000 and 2010 (Renjifo et al. 2016), which is equivalent to a 25% reduction across three generations, but the rate of population decline is likely to be higher than this due to hunting. Local people around the Serranía de San Lucas have recorded steep declines in this population and few individuals are thought to remain at Serranía de San Lucas (Salaman and Donegan 2001, D. Caro in litt. 2009). Interviews with people in several villages in the buffer zone of Paramillo National Park found that the majority considered the species's population to have decreased (Cabarcas et al. 2008). Numbers within El Paujíl Bird Reserve have increased and the density of individuals has increased from 2.1 individuals/km2 to 4.7 individuals/km2 in 2009 (D. Caro in litt. 2009) but remains far below the projected carrying capacity of 1 in 10 acres. The population in El Paujíl Bird Reserve was estimated at 254 individuals in 2009, and based on the same density estimate the population in the surrounding area (including the reserve) was thought to be 509 individuals (D. Caro in litt. 2009).

Ecology

It inhabits humid forest up to 1,200 m, but there is at least one record from tropical dry forest (Strewe et al. 2010). It has been recorded in secondary growth forest and forest where timber extraction has occurred (see Ochoa et al. 2016). A GIS study of the species's distribution and habitat in the north of Cordillera Central in Antioquia found that the species required forest patches of at least 3km(Melo et al. 2008). It breeds in the dry season, nesting in December-March, with parties of adults and chicks observed in March-August (Cuervo and Salaman 1999, A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Two breeding seasons have been recorded in the El Paujíl Bird Reserve, one from December to March and another from July to September (Urueña 2008b). It feeds on fruit, shoots, invertebrates, and perhaps even carrion (Cuervo and Salaman 1999, Quevedo et al. 2005, A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). One recent survey recorded the consumption of seeds from a total of 15 different plant species. A terrestrial crab was also consumed. The species forages directly on the forest floor, and has never been observed foraging in a tree (Urueña 2008a). Roost sites, situated in foliage in trees, are near feeding areas and are used for several days (Hirschfeld 2008).

Threats

This species may be tolerant of low levels of habitat degradation (Strewe et al. 2010); however, its range is affected by outright habitat loss and severe degradation. Vast areas of forest have been cleared since the 17th century, and are used for livestock-farming, arable cultivation, cotton and illegal drug plantations, oil extraction and mining (Dinerstein et al. 1995, Cuervo and Salaman 1999, Stiles et al. 1999, Strewe et al. 2010, L. G. Olarte in litt. 1993, L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1993, A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, L. Dávalos in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000, J. D. González in litt. 2005, J. M. Ochoa in litt. 2005). Severe deforestation has taken place in the lower part of Paramillo National Park, the middle Magdalena valley and in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Ochoa et al. 2016). A GIS study of an area representing 16.5% of the species's range in 2002 estimated that 39% of the species's potential distribution within this area was lost between 1986 and 2002, with a deforestation rate of 2.4% per year (Melo et al. 2008).  Deforestation outside of the El Paujíl Bird Reserve was previously found to be accelerating at an annual rate of 2.1-7% (Machado and Salaman 2008/2009). There are fears that deforestation may increase in areas such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serranía de San Lucas now that conflict has subsided (Negret et al. 2017, Shanahan 2017). Cultivation (notably of coffee), logging and marijuana-plantation expansion and subsequent government spraying with non-specific herbicides affect the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Dinerstein et al. 1995, Strewe et al. 2010, L. G. Olarte in litt. 1993, L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1993). Colonisation and deforestation for coca farming are the principal threats acting around the El Paujíl Bird Reserve (Quevedo et al. 2005). In 1996, there was a gold rush in the Serranía de San Lucas and most of the eastern slopes have since been settled, logged and converted to agriculture and coca production (A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, L. Dávalos in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Few individuals are thought to remain in this area due to hunting (D. Caro in litt. 2009). Hunting and egg-collecting for food have contributed to past and present declines, and a recent survey of villages surrounding the Paramillo National Park suggests these activities will continue into the future unless the economic situation of the villagers improves (Cabarcas et al. 2008, A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). A study of hunting in three municipalities in Antioquia estimated that 57 individuals were caught by hunters between 2002 and 2003 (Melo et al. 2008). The species is also threatened by infrastructure development, as exemplified by the Santa Marta-Riohacha Highway, which acts as a barrier between populations in Tayrona National Park and the foothills of the Sierra Marta de Santa Marta (Strewe et al. 2010).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is listed on CITES Appendix III. El Paujíl Bird Reserve was established in 2004, covering 848 ha in the Magdelena Valley, Serranía de las Quinchas, and local authorities have introduced penalties for shooting or trapping the species (R. S. R. Williams in litt. 1999). Fundación ProAves continue to purchase land to expand the reserve and are also engaging in habitat restoration within its boundaries (D. Caro in litt. 2009). Paramillo National Park is vast and holds this species, but no protective measures have been implemented (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). The large Bajo Cauca-Nechí Regional Reserve probably holds the species (A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Los Colorados Sanctuary protects part of the Serranía de San Jacinto (R. S. R. Williams in litt. 1999). It occurs in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Tayrona National Parks (Fundación ProAves 2009), and in the Cañon del Río Alicante and Los Besotes reserves (Quevedo et al. 2006, Ochoa et al. 2016). Of all of the reserves listed above, only El Paujíl Bird Reserve is thought to receive adequate protection to safeguard this species (Quevedo et al. 2006). A new national park at Serranía de San Lucas is planned for designation in 2018 (Shanahan 2017). Studies of population density and structure, as well as habitat use and behaviour of the species have been ongoing at the El Paujíl Bird Reserve since 2004 (Urueña et al. undated) A project to evaluate the species's ecology and threats is underway in the buffer zone of the Paramillo National Park (Ochoa et al. 2016). Further surveys are planned in the south-western limits of the species's range in order to delimit additional IBAs for its conservation. Since 2006, ProAves has been engaged in a variety of awareness-raising initiatives in three villages within the Serranía de las Quinchas buffer zone, including training courses on bird monitoring and for park rangers and the annual Paujil Festival (Urueña et al. undated, Quevedo et al. 2008). Education materials have been distributed and talks have been given in schools in northeast Antioquia (Ochoa et al. 2016). Fundación ALPEC is working to create a habitat corridor to connect protected areas in the lowlands to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta through a network of private reserves (Strewe et al. 2010). Captive populations are held in several zoos and a reintroduction programme was initiated in 2011 with the intention that when captive breeding is successful individuals will be reintroduced (Fundacion ProAves 2011). The species bred in captivity in Colombia for the first time in 2014 (Shanahan 2017).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Determine its population and distribution more accurately and confirm its persistence in the Serranía de San Jacinto and the upper Sinú drainage (Cuervo and Salaman 1999, Stiles et al. 1999, A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Protect forests on the serranías de San Lucas and de las Quinchas (Stiles et al. 1999, A. Cuervo in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Implement effective conservation measures in existing protected areas (L. Dávalos in litt. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2000). Establish and enforce a hunting prohibition (Urueña et al. 2006). Continue educational campaigns to limit hunting, and provide resources to replace the need for habitat conversion (A. Cuervo in litt. 1999). Develop ecotourism centred on the species (Shanahan 2017). Carry out a reintroduction programme.

Identification

83-93 cm. Large, mainly black, terrestrial cracid. Male black with white vent and tip to tail. Horn-coloured bill with fleshy blue cere and hanging wattle. Curled, black crest feathers. Pinkish legs. Female black with black-and-white crest feathers. Fine white barring on wings and tail (in barred morph also on breast and belly). Rufous lower belly and undertail. Bluish base to bill. Similar spp. Only curassow with blue bill-ornaments. Voice Low booming.

Acknowledgements

Text account compilers
Keane, A., Butchart, S., Benstead, P., Sharpe, C.J., Stuart, T., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Wheatley, H., Calvert, R., Bird, J., Isherwood, I.

Contributors
Cuervo, A., Dávalos, L., González, J.D., Ochoa, J.M., Olarte, L.G., Renjifo, L., Salaman, P.G.W., Williams, R.S.R. & Olaciregui , C.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Crax alberti. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/02/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/02/2020.