A Letter from Macaws of the Peruvian Amazon co-Principal Investigator Alan Lee, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Macaws, the brilliant, long-tailed parrots of Neotropical forests, are seriously threatened by both forest clearing and poaching for the pet trade. Young macaws sell for thousands of dollars, if they survive capture. Poachers cut down nesting trees for chicks and lurk at clay licks, where macaws and parrots congregate by the hundreds. Although increased ecotourism focused on watching macaws has helped reduce poaching, it may be causing its own problems by disturbing these birds. Macaws require century-old trees for nesting and have a slow reproductive rate. The data volunteers help collect will help prevent these magnificent birds from being driven to extinction.
The information collected by the project over the past ten years has resulted in many useful publications that have helped the conservation of these special birds not only in Peru, but also across South America. We provide opportunities to local students to help participate in research and experience the ecotourism industry, opportunities that help highlight the plight of these beautiful birds. Insights from our research have helped conservation efforts as far away as Brazil, Costa Rica, and Indonesia.
Today the region is threatened by a rapidly increasing colonization along the Interoceanic Highway, which will connect Brazil to the coastal ports of Peru, exposing thousands of hectares of forest to increased risk of destruction. Our research with satellite collars has already shown that macaws are flying long distances and crossing this road into unprotected areas. By aiding sustainable economic activities like responsible ecotourism, we do our bit in holding back the tide of threats that could negatively impact the macaw and parrot communities of Tambopata. Without the data to guide conservation responses to the Highway, we could see more species join those already on the endangered list, such as the Blue-headed macaw and Amazonian parrotlet. We're in a race to capture, collar, and track as many macaws as we can while there's still time to provide quality data to those who will determine the future of the entire region.
Please consider joining the Macaws of the Peruvian Amazon project to help researchers gather the data that's so urgently needed.