Blue-throated Macaw Conservation
To mitigate threats to blue-throated macaws in Bolivia
The illegal trade in parrots was devastating for many species throughout the world, but more pronounced for large colourful species found in small areas. The Critically Endangered blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis) is one of the species that declined almost to extinction. The blue-throated macaw only lives in palm forest islands between the large expanses of tropical savannah in the department of Beni in Bolivia.
Asociacion Armonia and Loro Parque Fundacion have been conducting the blue-throated macaw conservation programme since 1993. In 2003 they published a Species Recovery Plan that has been the basis for their conservation actions. The blue-throated macaw programme has indicated the priority threats to the species, which are illegal pet trade, nest cavity destruction, habitat destruction and feather collection killings. The programme is working to reduce or terminate the key threats to the species through a diversity of conservation actions.
Illegal pet trade: A radical reduction in illegal trade has occurred as a result of an extensive local education programme and local pride campaign. The programme is now concentrating on the national illegal pet trade, educating the nation on its impact and working with government and law enforcement entities to stop these actions.
Nest cavity destruction: Many of the large trees in the Beni savannah area have been cut for construction wood. The blue-throated macaw programme has established 150 nest boxes throughout Beni. Each year the programme refurbishes the boxes and monitors and protects breeding chicks.
Habitat destruction: The blue-throated macaw only exists on private ranches, with no national parks protecting the species. The blue-throated macaw programme has created a 4,676 ha private reserve protecting the highest density of blue-throated macaws in the world - over one-third of the global population. The programme works to protect the habitat of the reserve by keeping invading fires, cattle and poachers off the reserve. The programme also needs to create tourism facilities for the reserve in order to create long-term sustainable support for the protection of the area.
Feather collection killings: The indigenous culture in the Beni savannahs has a traditional dance of high cultural importance that includes a headdress made from the two central macaw tail feathers. Each headdress contains approximately feathers from ten collected and killed macaws. The blue-throated macaw programme is working with local indigenous groups to train them to create artificial feathers that can replace macaw tail feathers. The project has had an added benefit that the creation of these feathers and the headdresses can be sold in festivals, giving an economic benefit to many poor communities.
The blue-throated macaw programme has achieved many successes, but must continue its conservation work to secure the protection of the Critically Endangered blue-throated macaw forever. The programme urgently needs support to protect the blue-throated macaw reserve, to continue their nest box campaign, to conduct nationwide education programmes on the illegal trade that continues in Bolivia and to help train and support the alternative indigenous headdresses.
WAZA Conservation Project 11015 is implemented by Asociacion Armonia, with support provided by Loro Parque Fundacion, Chester Zoo and CEPA. Other stakeholders involved in the project include the American Bird Conservancy, World Land Trust–US, Bird Endowment and Parrot Society.
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