“Lenza” and “Lempira”, two baby parrots, flapping their wings, training for the first flight. In Honduras, the project to preserve the crimson macaws, the country’s national bird, aims to recover the animals from the illegal trade and return them to their natural habitat.
“These young people will be released on June 28,” explains Karina Escalante, an agronomist with the Forest Protection Institute (ICF), about two Ara macao chickens, born as part of a project in Gracias, some 180km northwest of Tegucigalpa.
“They’re in the ring, it allows us to recognize in which nest they were born, in what year and who their parents are,” and to distinguish them from birds born in the wild, the scientist explains.
A century ago, large populations of this colorful bird were found from Mexico to Costa Rica, but it now survives in only a few forest areas. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the macaw is an endangered species, but “the least worrying”.
The conservation project in western Honduras was launched by the NGO Pro-Alas and Macaw Mountain Bird Park, in Copan Ruinas County. The ultimate goal is to repopulate Central America with this bird that the Mayans revered.
“The project focuses on captive reproduction of individuals from the trade (illegal wildlife), their rehabilitation and reproduction so that they become free again in their original habitat,” Mauricio Cuevas told AFP, the executive director of Mount Macaw.
According to him, the project has enabled the reproduction of 98 individuals in the park since 2011, including 23 released in 2020 and 24 released during 2021. Several have already been reproduced in the wild, without assistance, he points out.
According to project officials, about 2,000 crimson acres travel freely in the Copan Valley, where conservation programs will be implemented with local communities.
The captive breeding process involves collecting clutches, usually three eggs per pair, incubating for 28 days and after hatching, following the growth of the chicks.
After 90 days of flying, they go to an aviary where they interact with other creatures to learn socializing and vocalization. Then they discover both plants and fruits at the transition to their release into the woods.
The crimson macaw is a friendly animal that moves in groups of 25 or more individuals. Monogamous, she separates herself from others to generate and dedicate herself to her youth. Then the parents take care of them for at least a year, until they become independent.
The “Mayan Road” tourist route that comes to the site of the Copan ruins “could become a red macaw road,” enthused Geert van Vaeck, director of the NGO Pro-Alas.
And ultimately, the idea is to “take the macaw from Honduras to other countries” in Central America, Mr. Cuevas explains.