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Working with Great Green Macaws in Costa Rica

Great Green Macaw

Tracy Aviary supports the conservation of great green macaws (Ara ambiguuus) through the conservation station. One of the organizations directly working with this species is the The Ara Project. On September of this year I had the opportunity to visit Costa Rica, and work with the biologists of the project and other volunteers. The Ara project is a perfect example of integrated conservation, as it embraces all elements necessary to ensure conservation success. The project team uses three strategies to their ultimate goal of reintroducing/reestablishing healthy populations of native species of macaw throughout their historical range.

Briefly stated, the strategies are:

  1. Reintroduction of the birds: The Ara Project’s release of great green macaws (greens) is the first-ever official release of this species. To date 20 great green macaws have been released (10 in 2011 and 10 in 2012); 25 adult macaws await release in 2013/2014.
  2. Preservation of the habitat these birds need to continue survival: The project is working with other stakeholders in the area to create preserved biological corridors down both coasts so the macaws can move throughout their historical range. Large tracts of native forest habitat for macaws have been removed from Costa Rica; the amount of habitat suitable for their survival has decreased by as much as 90%.
  3. Education of local people: The Ara Project recognizes that to be truly successful in restoring wild macaw populations, it is essential to ensure their viability through the cooperation of the people who share their habitat. Understanding that people ultimately conserve what they love, the project engages local people in this conservation effort, teaching them why the preservation of macaws and their habitat ultimately aids not only other native flora and fauna, but also the human community through eco-tourism.

In the field I was able to participate in different activities that altogether contribute to the success of the project.  For example, I helped collect beach almonds to feed the macaws awaiting release, so they could learn to open that kind of fruit in the wild; I also helped to monitor previously released birds and, among others activities, I helped maintain the aviaries where the macaws were kept, both at the breeding center and the release site.

To learn more about The Ara Project and its work, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook.