Project 2: Macaw Mountain

Project ID Annual Project Budget for 2017 Executing Group and Partners


$20,000 Macaw Mountain Reserve
Macaw Mountain Scarlet Macaw Reintroduction Program
Project Location Principal Protected Area Principal Target Species
Salida a Agua Caliente Km. 2, Copan Ruinas Pico Bonito National Park, Guanaja, Puerto Cortes.
  • Scarlet Macaw
Project History
Macaw Mountain has operated as a visitor-financed rescue center for unwanted, wounded, or confiscated Honduran birds since 2002. Located in a lush river valley of old growth forest it has effectively communicated a strong environmental message to visitors from throughout the country as well as to foreign guests. In 2011 a cooperative effort was begun to reintroduce a free-flying population of scarlet macaws to the Copan Valley using the important Mayan Ruins and the surrounding archaeological park as a protected release site. An agreement was signed between Macaw Mountain, The World Parrot Trust, Asociacion Copan, and the government's Instituto de Conservacion Forestal and the project was initiated in Feb. 2011. An already resident group of 14 scarlet macaws (in relatively poor condition) was rehabilitated, 15 additional macaws have been released, and 8 chicks have been hatched at the site. This group continues to expand its daily range already crossing into Guatemala foraging.
Project Objectives
To return a free-flying population of scarlet macaws to the Copan Valley and in the process develop a model for similar efforts at other suitable sites. It should be mentioned that the release here is into a populated valley, not a protected forest reserve, so could have wide application.Restoring such an important and impacting species to areas it once inhabited sends a strong and instantly understood message of the value of environmental protection in a country with still rich natural resources. It would be an impressive and unprecedented accomplishment for Honduras at a time when "good press" is sorely lacking.
Project Justification

The scarlet macaw is a highly threatened species throughout Central America.  It is the National Bird of Honduras and was a very important species in the daily life and mythology of the Maya as the sculpture in Copan repeatedly testifies.  Honduras is fortunate to have a few remaining wild populations of Ara macao in remote parts of the Mosquitia but those are under serious threat from animal traffickers and deforestation.  Restoring free-flying groups of these highly visible  birds in various parts of the country will raise awareness of their plight and enlist wide support for their preservation.  If this emblematic species is saved and the habitat it requires is protected many other less visible species will be conserved. The Guara's return in significant numbers will be a source of real pride for all Hondurans.

Project Description

Following the model developed in Copan the "Guaras en Libertad" concept would be extended to another site in the country.  Interest has been expressed already by the Municipality of Puerto Cortez, by The Lodge at Pico Bonito outside La Ceiba, and by the island of Guanaja.  The cooperating group would agree to the educational program, animal feeding and care parameters,release procedures, and post-release security and monitoring techniques that the model employs. Especially critical is an educational effort in the surrounding communities well in advance of the actual liberation of the macaws.

The extension of the model will require some expansion of existing aviary space to quarantine and acclimate incoming macaws and a flight training aviary to condition each group for release.  An increased effort to have captive birds donated from the country,  some captive breeding in Copan, and better coordination with the authorities involved in confiscations should provide the macaws needed to expand.

In spite of initial pessimistic predictions ("the people will kill and rob the Guaras") the response has been positive throughout and the birds have won the argument. We receive smiling reports of sightings almost daily and the Municipality is about to declare the zone "The Sacred Valley of the Macaws".  The macaws have a real victory but so do the people of the Copan Valley.

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