By Marguerite Fly Bevis Belize Ag Report

Although Belize boasts at least 444 species of birds, the Scarlet Macaw (Aramacaocyanoptera) is one of the most beautiful and one of the most threatened birds in the jewel. Scarlet Macaws have survived the tragic flooding of their habitat by dams built in the mid 2000's. In 1989 there were about 200 known Scarlet Macaws in the country. Today, there may be 200 to 250 birds. They remain at threat due to the incursion of poachers who steal chicks and cut down nesting trees. Scarlet Macaws are already extirpated in most of Central America.

Funding is needed for patrolling, fuel, supplies for the conservation teams working in very remote locations within the Chiquibul Forest Reserve. Due to monitoring and protection efforts of the Friends for Conservation (FCN), the "Scarlet Six,"a group dedicated to protecting this important species, and individuals, Sharon Matola of the Belize Zoo, Dr Isabelle Paquet-Durand of the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic, Charles Britt, Kristi Drexler, Roni Martinez and many others, poaching in recent years has dropped from 90% to 30% according to a monitoring team in 2013. U.S. citizens can make tax deductible donations to the Rainforest Rescue Foundation, specifying the funds to be allocated to the Belize Scarlet Macaw project.

Another way to help is to volunteer time to camp near the nesting sites to observe and monitor Scarlet Macaws. The presence of humans in the nesting area serves to keep poachers away. Charles Britt says, "This is an opportunity to camp out way 'bak-a-bush,' to really get away from it all. You would be responsible for your own camping gear, your own food and supplies. Plan to go for about a week. If you are interested, contact Roni Martinez, Chief Conservation Officer of Blancaneaux Lodge." Look for a report on this experience in a future issue of the Belize Ag Report.

Another exciting conservation project is raptor research which is ongoing in Belize, with scientists studying Solitary and Harpy Eagles, among other raptors, such as the Hook-billed Kite, Orange-breasted Falcon, and many others. The 4th Annual Bird-a-Thon was held in March 2014 for a week in order to help raise funds for ongoing raptor research in Belize. This is the fundraising highlight for the Belize Raptor Research Institute (BRRI) which was founded by Ryan Phillips. Individual teams and lodge teams participated by counting bird species during any 24 hour period of time within a single week. Participants compete for prizes and the BRRI trophy for the most species observed. Please see more information about this worthy project at

Funds raised are used for:

  • GPS-satellite studies on the rare Solitary Eagle
  • Outreach to communities about the benefits of raptors
  • Educational materials including posters, information
  • pamphlets and guides
  • Supporting internships
  • Supporting the Belize Raptor Watch Program
  • Research on the enigmatic Hook-billed Kite
  • Protection of habitat for raptors and biodiversity