Heather Scott has worked with the Parrots at the Butterfly House in Sheffield for 5 years. On 2nd February 2015 she is going on the adventure of a lifetime to Costa Rica to volunteer with the Parrots at the Ara Project.
Heather has kindly written this blog for us, talking about what she'll be doing on her trip, how the Macaws she works with helped her fundraise and where her passion for Parrots began.
"Around five years ago, the Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre, near Sheffield, gave me an amazing opportunity and I joined the team as a trainee presenter and bird trainer and I’m now counting down the days until I go on the adventure of a lifetime in Costa Rica in February, volunteering for six weeks with the Parrots there as part of the Ara Project.
I’ve always had a passion for wildlife and love animals, and very quickly developed a real fondness for Parrots when I began working with them and discovered how intelligent they are, and how much each individual has such a strong personality.
The first birds I developed a real bond with were Bonnie and Alfie, two very young Green-winged Macaws. I was new to training and we sort of learned together, and I trained them for free-flight in our displays which was such a rewarding and exhilarating experience!
Over the years, my team and I have worked really hard to fundraise and support the important work of several conservation charities, and during 2014 I found out more about the Ara Project and really wanted to contribute to the work they do.
The charity was founded in 1982 and is dedicated to ensuring the future of Great Green Macaws and Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica. Both of these species’ numbers have been devastatingly reduced as a result of capture for the pet trade, hunting, deforestation and many of these threats continue to endanger these Parrots.
The latest research by the Ara Project estimates there are only around 4,000 Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica, and less than 1,000 Great Green Macaws, with perhaps as few as 35 breeding pairs remaining.
The two sites in Punta Islita, which is the site I’ll be working at, and Manzanillo, contain breeding facilities and the main focus is reintroducing Macaws to their former ranges, as well as monitoring wild populations. Both sites are open to visits from the public with a reservation, providing a unique opportunity for the local community and visitors from around the world, to see beautiful Macaws up close and learn about the dangers they face in the wild.
We raised £1,500 in donations for the charity by selling wristbands during our Animal and Bird Displays, and two miniature Macaws have played a big part too. Ché and Esteban are 3 year old Hahn’s Macaw brothers with a special talent! We trained them to gently take coins from our generous audience members who wished to make a donation, which really helped get people excited about being involved.
Alfie, the Green-Winged Macaw, is a very good actor and ‘plays dead’ to ensure the message hits home about the potential loss of a Parrot species and how tragic it would be. I wanted to help personally and decided to go and get stuck in, find out more about how the organisation is helping to protect the future of Costa Rica’s Macaws and contribute as much as I can.
I’ll be spending 6 weeks from February 2nd to March 14th living at the Punta Islita site volunteering; with my main responsibilities being collecting wild foods for the birds, cleaning and maintenance of the aviaries, providing enrichment and hopefully helping with the research and monitoring projects too. I hope that my experience with training could come in useful for tasks like weighing the Macaws and I can’t wait to get stuck in!
I am very lucky that the Tropical Butterfly House is allowing me to take this time away from my role at the park and fully support this volunteer project. I am incredibly grateful to the individuals and companies who have kindly donated to help fund the trip and make it possible for me to get involved and help the Ara Project.
I look forward to sharing with everyone what I learn there and I’m sure I’ll be able to capture some amazing photos too!"