Watch: Conservationist release 26 scarlet macaws into wild

Scarlet macaws at a soft-release pen in Guatemala. Credit: WCS Guatemala

Conservationists with the Wildlife Conservation Society have released 26 scarlet macaws into the wild in Guatemala to bolster the country’s small population of the birds.

Scarlet macaws (Ara macao) are found widely across South and Central America, but only about 300 remain in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve due to poaching for the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss from intentionally-lit fires cattle ranching and human development. Wildlife managers remove low-weight chicks and third or fourth eggs from wild nests that typically don’t survive to adulthood. They then raise these birds in the lab before releasing them. The managers fitted some of the chicks with VHF telemetry devices. While these devices have had problems as the macaws are quite adept at removing them with their strong beaks, some data has shown they migrate between dry-season breeding sites and wet-season feeding areas in Guatemala and Mexico.

“It’s extremely rewarding to see so many scarlet macaws fly off into the forest. But we need to keep up our work to protect these birds from a variety of growing threats, or they will eventually vanish from the Maya Biosphere Reserve,” said Rony García-Anleu, the leader of the macaw monitoring and recovery program with WCS’s Guatemala Program.

Watch a video on the release below.