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

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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