Friends of Animals (FoA) is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to act on a petition it filed in January 2008 to have two populations of the scarlet macaw protected under the Endangered Species Act, noting that time is running out to protect this species.

A 2010 lawsuit that FoA brought against FWS for failing to submit a 12-month finding on the scarlet macaw resulted in a settlement in 2012, where FWS acknowledged that the listing was warranted, but still has not enacted any protection for the birds.

“We hope this lawsuit brings much needed protection for the scarlet macaw,” said Jenni Best, assistant legal director for Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program (WLP). “The Endangered Species Act mandates that the government finalize listing decisions within two years from receiving a petition, and we’ve been waiting over a decade now. We can’t wait any longer.”

Ongoing threats to the scarlet macaw are human development and deforestation, climate change and poachers who target them for the exotic pet trade. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms poses an immediate threat to the continued existence of the scarlet macaw throughout its range in Central America and northern South America.

“The Endangered Species Act is an important tool that can provide stronger protections against illegal trade than are currently being provided by international law alone,” said Elizabeth Rasheed, an attorney for the WLP. “Illegal trade in endangered parrots—some are taken from the wild to be sold as pets and some for their feathers—has had a devastating impact on many species throughout Latin America. This endangered population of scarlet macaws needs the full strength of regulatory protections that we are able to provide it.”

The two populations of brilliantly colored scarlet macaws that FoA’s lawsuit seeks to protect live in tropical humid rainforests ranging from northern Colombia through Central America. The northern subspecies, Ara macao cyanoptera, is larger with significantly longer wing lengths and does not have the green band separating the yellow and blue on its feathers on its wing coverts that the southern subspecies, Ara macao macao, has.