The communities of the Southern Caribbean have recently been meeting up with a few new residents on the beaches and trees tops in the forest canopy: The Great Green Macaw, currently deemed extinct in our area.

With permission from the scientists living here deep in the forest we are happy to bring light to a tremendously exciting project: The Ara project.

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The Ara Project has been involved in macaw conservation for over 25 years by means of breeding in captivity and reintroduction programs. The Ara Project’s breeding center has the largest collection of Great Green Macaws in captivity.

Between 1999 and 2011, The Ara Project released approximately 100 Scarlet Macaws in its three release sites: Curú Wildlife Refuge, Palo Verde and Tiskita Biological Reserve. The released macaws have a survival rate of around 85% and several pairs have been successfully reproducing, creating natural population augmentation.

The breeding birds are birds that have been confiscated by MINAET from poachers, etc., and others are unwanted pets that were rescued by the Project. These birds cannot be released for many reasons. Many are injured from being poached, or are otherwise emotionally or mentally damaged due to mistreatment, and long-time confinement as pets.

Though unable to be released, these birds are able to successfully breed and lay fertile eggs which produce babies that can then be released.

Great Greens used to be found over much of Costa Rica, particularly along the Caribbean coast. These birds are specifically adapted for living in the rainforest and are dependent on the mountain almond tree (almendro de montaña, Dipteryx panamensis) for survival.

These trees can take hundreds of years to mature. Great Green macaws not only eat the nuts from these trees, but they also live and breed in cavities formed in the trunks. These enormous trees provide protection from predators, and also provide water collected from rain in the leaves and branches.

Being a strong and beautiful tropical hardwood, the almendro has been severely deforested throughout much of Costa Rica, decreasing the Great Greens’ range by 90%. The last remaining wild population of these macaws is found near Nicaragua, in Tortuguero, where there are only about 300 individuals, and only 25 — 35 breeding pairs left.

These birds mate for life and take about 10 years to reach breeding age. Fortunately, the Talamanca area of the Southern Caribbean has a large amount of remaining almendros that are able to support a large population of macaws. Hopefully we will see macaws in them in the future!

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In addition to deforestation, these birds have become endangered greatly due to illegal poaching for the pet trade. In captivity, macaws can live over 60 years. As social animals, macaws become depressed and even self-destructive when kept as pets. They are loud, messy, and destructive. This is not because they are ill-behaved, but because they are macaws, and that’s what macaws do!

The Ara Project only has birds in captivity that cannot be released and are able to breed in support of the release program.

This release in Talamanca, on the Southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, is very exciting, as this is the world’s first-ever official release of this species, and it has taken many years to come to actuality.

The birds being released are between the ages of 4 — 7, so that they focus on learning where to find food and shelter, not just on breeding. Ten birds in total are being released in this first group. If successful, more will be released in the future, and the hope is to have a large self-sustaining flock established!

Seven birds have been released so far, and the intention is to release the rest soon.

Just today, coming home from work, I was privileged to hear a loud “wraaaaaaa” …looked up in the tree — and there was one! You’ll know you are around one — as the sound is truly loud, unique and unmistakeable — and once sighted — awesome! It will make your day for sure!

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The Great Green Macaw Video.

For more information, please visit or contact Allan Taylor, Head Biologist, or Colline Emmanuelle, Education & Community Outreach Manager,

The Great Green Macaw Makes A Comeback on the Southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica.

Article/Property ID Number 3407

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