A Bolivian Adventure, Wild Parrot Conservation

We have just returned from an adventurous two weeks in Bolivia. As with all our ecotours, the goal is to learn about native parrots and support conservation efforts. There are 54 psittacine species in Bolivia, ranging from the critically endangered red-fronted and blue-throated macaws, to a diverse number of other macaws, Amazons, conures, and pionus species. The Bolivian constitution is committed to the rights of all living creatures, but it is not an easy country to create NGOs (non-governmental organization). This poses challenges for much needed conservation organizations.

Our tour was organized by José Antonio Díaz Luque, a brilliant researcher and scientist from Spain who has spent the last 13 years of his life committed to helping the critically endangered blue-throated macaw, and other threatened species like the red-fronted macaw. Both of these macaws are down to small numbers and live in very remote areas.

The infrastructure of Bolivia is not set up for tourism, especially for seeing these particular birds. So, we found ourselves on many bumpy roads (and rivers!) traveling to remote areas; definitely an adventure. Sometimes if we want to see something rare, we have to work hard to get there, right?

In the Jardin Cactaceas Municipal Protected Area, community of Anamales, we parked in front of the roosting areas of the red-fronted macaw. There were a few individuals flying around and “shopping” for potential nesting areas. 

There are only an estimated SIX breeding pairs remaining in this protected area. However, thanks to the CLB Foundation (www.fclbolivia.org/, Facebook and Instagram), this small community is developing a true appreciation for the need to preserve the species. We were greeted kindly by the park ranger and families of the area, who provided us a wonderful lunch and friendly welcome. The children even wrote a poem about the birds which they recited for us.

Our tour group contributed some much appreciated medical supplies to the community. And thanks to Angie Yeung, owner of the Celltei company, Phoenix Landing was able to make a $1,000 donation for a community garden. This garden will benefit the local families as well as the rare stingless bees they are also breeding for medicinal honey, providing new economic opportunities for the families of this community.

When we show support for a community in the name of parrots, the people understand how much we care about the birds and this encourages them to invest in their protection as well. 

During our travels, we also saw many other species like the canary winged parakeet, conures (white eyed, green cheek, mitred), blue front Amazons, and other macaws (military, hahns, severe, and yellow collared). We thoroughly enjoyed watching their social behavior and the kinds of food they eat (flowers, pods, nuts).

We also came across an illegally kept captive blue and gold macaw on a home patio. This bird has severe feather destruction and has been deprived of baths and proper nutrition for many years. The government was notified and the bird was rapidly picked up for rehoming. More about that shortly!

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting CIESA – the Endangered Species Research Center, (Facebook and Instagram), where there are plans to breed blue-throated macaws for future reintroduction. We also visited the Gran Mojos Municipal Protected Area, where there are an estimated 50 wild blue throats in this protected area, and we saw about 12 that morning. Beautiful and rare!

At the CIESA center we met the blue-throated macaws who will be part of a future breeding program. CIESA does a great job of caring for the birds, and we were especially impressed with their diet program, which involves a wide variety of fresh foods rotated on a daily basis. Laura Epperson picked out some toys from our store to take along, to include skewers from Expandable Habitats. Just like our birds in captivity, skewers are a great way to encourage foraging and activity. Here is one of the skewers being used for food, and the blue-throat who was so excited to try it out!

We also met a group of very young canary wing parakeets that will be released soon. Look at this brilliant approach to teaching foraging and feeding. They put food on the browse and placed it in a carrier with the young birds. This simulates wild foraging and teaches the birds how to find food once they are released. Sheila Carpenter and Kathleen O’Neill generously donated money onsite to help the center build a larger enclosure for the birds, as the next step towards their future release.

We had the privilege of meeting the blue and gold macaw who was rescued a couple of days earlier. Dr. Rhoda Stevenson (ABVP-Avian) from the Exotic Bird Hospital in Jacksonville, FL was part of our group, and she was able to consult with Dr. Vania Gonzalez Rodriquez, a World Parrot Trust funded veterinarian onsite at CIESA. They even named her Phoenix, since we were instrumental in helping this distraught macaw to move forward to a better life!   

We would like to thank the incredible leaders of CLB (Lyliam Gonzalez, Pamela Suárez, and Cecelia Nuñez Poggi) for the efforts in facilitating our adventure and telling us about their exemplary work in the protected area communities; as well as the members of CIESA who hosted us at their center which will have an important role in the future survival of the blue-throated macaw (Vania Gonzalez, Marcella Franco, and Michael Arce). Phoenix Landing, along with the Lafeber Company, will be supporting the purchase of a much needed microscope and medical supplies for the CIESA center. Let us know if you would like to help too!

Most photos courtesy of Angie Yeung, thanks Angie!

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