The elusive scarlet macaw
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Thursday February 28, 2013

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The elusive scarlet macaw, munching on cohune nuts

Deep in the heart of the Maya Mountains sits the 264,000-acre Chiquibul Forest, Belize's largest protected area. This is the prized breeding ground of Belize's endangered species, the dazzlingly beautiful scarlet macaw, a vibrant member of the parrot family that depends on the Quamwood tree's soft wood to nest. In Mayan tradition, the scarlet macaw represented the rising sun. Macaws are also fantastically monogamous and stay with the same mate until one of them dies. Like any massive tropical area with such sacred wildlife, there comes a high risk of hunting for food and the troubling reality of poaching nestlings and young chicks for the exotic pet trade black market.

Wildlife biologists and local villagers monitor scarlet macaws and tag them with satellite telemetry collars to capture data on their daily movements. This is crucial for deciphering their movement patterns and feeding grounds, as well as their exact migration route over the Maya Mountains. Monitoring expeditions will continue as the breeding season draws to an end.

Thanks to aggressive conservation efforts carried out by joint government/biological and private sector entities, illegal poachers were caught climbing nests. This prompted intervention by FCD (Friends for Conservation and Development) national park rangers, who teamed up with a Joint Forces Unit (composed of army, immigration, and police) to protect macaws from poachers. More needs to be done, like hiring more full-time rangers during nesting season, and purchasing more monitoring equipment and supplies for rangers and volunteers. Of course, expanding environmental education for residents of Belize and Guatemala will create deeper awareness and support for conservation efforts.

Photographs by Roni Martinez

Top photo artisticized by Marty Casado, click here <~~ for the original version of the photo

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