For years, the Zoo has supported scarlet macaw conservation in Guatemala through the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre (ARCAS). ARCAS is pleased to announce the first ever release of endangered scarlet macaws (Ara macao cyanoptera) in Guatemala.
On October 5th, 2015, nine individuals were released in the Sierra Lacandon National Park in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the northern Peten region of the country with the objective of reinforcing the local macaw population there. These nine macaws are graduates of ARCAS´ captive breeding program, initiated in 2004 utilizing birds confiscated in the illegal pet trade. They are the result of years of hard work, including determining the genetic origin of the founder animals, developing successful captive breeding methodologies, and establishing rehabilitation protocols. Laboratory exams were carried out to confirm the health of the birds and prevent the spread of illnesses into wild populations.
In this program, the chicks are raised by their parents so they are less likely to become imprinted on humans and will have a better chance at surviving in the wild. They are fed wild food so that they know what to eat once they are released. Five of the macaws were fitted with satellite transmitters in order to monitor their movements and success in adapting to the wild. Funds were raised for the necessary equipment for the monitoring of released birds, and an environmental education program was established in order to gain the support of local communities at the release site.
The release of these parrots can be measured in years of hard work, in hours without sleep, in days of research, and in high costs; but its real value is in boosting the population of this endangered species, which currently stands at 300 to 400 birds. ARCAS will work hard to continue monitoring the animals to determine their success at adapting to life in the wild, and the Zoo will continue to support and cheer them on!