Belize’s Scarlet Macaws

Belize’s Scarlet Macaws and their main nesting site along the Upper Macal River and Raspaculo Branch in the Chiquibul National Park are critical to the survival of this endangered sub-species of scarlet macaw Ara macao cyanoptera in northern Central America.

Belize’s Chiquibul National Park along with Guatemala’s central-west Maya Biosphere Reserve contain the last remaining viable nesting populations in the region. Belize’s nesting population is under threat yet it’s not from habitat loss but from poaching for the illegal pet trade. A lack of funding and resources compounded by other pressures along the western border with Guatemala (primarily the illegal logging of mahogany and cedar along with Xate collection) has led to virtually all periodically monitored macaw nests being poached over the last few years. If this trend was to continue an aging macaw population would reach the point of no return and quickly lead to a population crash and extinction.

Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) the co-managers of the Chiquibul National Park are working diligently to raise grant funding and protect not only the Macaw nesting site but the Chiquibul Forest as a whole. They are being supported by a small group of collaborators who are dedicated to ensuring that Belize’s macaws have a viable future.

Charles Britt of the New Mexico State University is at the forefront of the researching the region’s Scarlet Macaws. He has recently radio collared 3 macaws and along with MPREC applied for and obtained a €20,000 grant from the Spanish based foundation Loro Parque.

This funding will be used to monitor and protect the core area of the macaw nesting site. Four full time staff have been recruited to monitor the nesting site 24-hours a day for the critical 4 months of the nesting season – from May through August. FCD will provide security via their rangers, police and BDF attachment. It is hoped that 50% of the macaw chicks can survive the 2012 nesting season ( an estimated  survival rate of at least 32% of chicks is necessary to maintain a stable population. Data taken from a paper – ‘Nesting site Selection and Nest Survival of the Scarlet Macaw in the Maya Biosphere Reserve of Guatemala and Chiquibul Forest of Belize’ by Charles Britt).

For more information on the fight to protect Belize’s Scarlet Macaws and how you can participate or donate please visit FCD’s web site by clicking here.

To learn more about Charles Britt’s work check out the amazing images and video on his blog here.

Here’s a sample of images from the May 2011 satellite telemetry device tagging expedition. Images have been provided by Charles Britt/Roni Martinez and are ©

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