One of the things I’m most passionate about on this blog is the protection of parrots, wild or tame. As many readers here already know, habitat loss and the illegal pet trade cause serious damage to wild parrot populations (the latter being one more reason for “adopt, don’t shop”). As it happens in Mexico and Guatemala, scarlet macaws are one of these critically affected species, with population numbers dipping below 500 birds total 1. Did you know that scarlet macaws typically lay two to four eggs each breeding season? However, parents only care for the first and possibly second chick.
The others are sentenced to starve to death – which is where the Tambopata Macaw Project steps in.
Yes, there are foster “parronts,” and it’s science.
The Tambopata Macaw Project Team is working to develop fostering and supplemental feeding techniques (“parront” being 100% my term, not theirs!) that move abandoned third and fourth chicks into new, empty nests, or nests containing only one. It’s too risky to test new field techniques in areas with rapidly declining populations, so they focus work in the Tambopata region, where the populations are more stable. According to Shannon Courtenay, team project media leader, “From our research, we know that over 20% of all scarlet macaws that hatch die of starvation, the leading cause of death amongst wild chicks.” A hefty 45% of second chicks, and nearly all of third and fourth chicks are left to starve to death, while the parents focus on the first. Utilising wild foster parent macaws could dramatically cut down on these percentages
And okay, so perhaps using the word “parront” doesn’t convey quite how scientific this research is – or, indeed, how important that data is to the long-term conservation of parrots, which itself has a positive impact on whole ecosystems throughout Latin America. You see, the family Psittacidae is one of the most endangered bird families in the world. Low natural reproductive rates, coupled with habitat loss, and capture for the pet trade, especially among the largest psittacine species, are driving this high rate of endangerment.
The Tambopata Macaw Project trialled their “chick adoption” program last year with promising results: nearly all of adopted chicks survived. Now they are asking our help to run this program on a larger scale, to save more Scarlet Macaw chicks, and allow them to share this vital information with other conservation programs around the world.
About the Tambopata Macaw Project:
Based in the lowlands of southeastern Peru, the Tambopata Macaw Project is a long-term research project on macaw and parrot conservation and ecology. To date, their researchers have developed and tested an array of conservation techniques, helping parrot populations around the world, including Puerto Rican Parrots in the U.S.A., Blue-throated Macaws in Bolivia, Scarlet Macaws in Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, and Guatemala, and Salmon-crested Cockatoos in Indonesia – as well as others.
If you want to learn more, I highly recommend following them on Facebook (Tambopata Macaw Project). They’ve been studying scarlet macaws for over three decades, and there’s a lot to learn.
Science in action.
Working in remote environments such as the lowland jungles of southeastern Peru means that things we normally take for granted are not always readily available or reliable. For instance: electricity.
The researchers have a brooder in the Research Center to keep the young chicks warm and safe. These need to be maintained at a constant temperature, but the center only has electricity for limited times throughout the day. For all other times, including at night, they need to use a car battery that is hooked up to the brooder, constantly checking that these are still in working order. All of the equipment, from chick food to measuring equipment and climbing gear needs to be brought in, usually from America, flown to the jungle city of Puerto Maldonado, and put on a 7-hour boat ride up river. The team is in constant battle with nature: ants eating electrical wiring, humidity destroying their electrical equipment, and limited funds for replacement gear.
This is why the Tambopata Macaw Project needs funding to make this important research possible.
How can we help save wild parrots?
If you’re passionate about protecting our earth and its incredible, rich ecosystems, this is the perfect time of year to donate to a great cause – so be sure to check out the Tambopata Macaw Project’s Experiment page. In case you’re wondering, it’s a project endorsed by multiple respected aviculture professionals, including Phoenix Landing Parrot Rescue’s Ann Brooks, Susan G. Friedman, Scott Echols, and Sharman Hoppes.
The project will last approximately four months, from mid December 2017 to mid February 2018. According to their mission statement,
“We predict that first macaw chicks will be hatching by late-November. So we will have third chicks hatching by mid-December, with the possibility of more late hatches by mid-January. Chicks will be translocated into their adoptive nests approximately 15 days after hatching and will continue to be monitored using video cameras placed inside their nests until they fledge.”
We can all help pull Scarlet Macaws from the brink of extinction. Even if you aren’t able to donate now, a quick share or a comment helps spread the word, too!
By the by: Keep an eye out for a first-hand account of what it’s like to participate in this important research from Tambopata Macaw Project team member, Shannan Courtenay. This is in the works!