I’ve now been volunteering with the Ara Project for two weeks and it’s already the experience of a lifetime!
The Punta Islita site is home to around 150 Macaws in total; around two thirds are Scarlets and the rest are the critically endangered Great Green Macaws.
The centre is split into four areas which are
juvenile ‘socialising’ Macaws who are yet to choose a mate, Macaws who are being monitored ready for release, breeding pairs who have their own private quarters, and unreleasable Macaws; some with and without a mate (many of these birds are physically impaired due to injuries/malnutrition etc from before they were taken in by the charity).
The unreleasable birds still play a big part in the programme, because their young can be released, live a normal life in the wild, and contribute to the future of the remaining populations.
Our working day begins at 6.15am with chopping and weighing out fruit and vegetables, cleaning all of the food and water dishes, and feeding all of the Parrots. Cleaning and hygiene standards are maintained at a high level, and the aviary cleaning is quite a task, with providing enrichment and replacing perches taking up the rest of our working hours, before feeding again in the afternoon.
The strenuous physical work required by the team is made more challenging by the heat, but everyone is given a break for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to relax, or even walk down to enjoy the gorgeous beach.
The centre is open for one hour tours in the afternoons and this is an important source of income for the project and a great way to educate more people and get them enthusiastic about Macaw conservation.
The wild Scarlet Macaws in the area which were released by the Ara Project are also fed twice a day.
‘Soft release’ is a widely used method, in which animals continue to be fed by the organisation releasing them, until they are confident and capable enough to be fully independent. It’s a beautiful sight and so thrilling to see some of these wild birds starting to pair up.
On a personal level, I’m finding the experience is challenging me in a great way – I have been forced to face my creepy-crawly fears head on, with scorpions, tarantulas and whip scorpions regular visitors inside the basic accommodation I’m in! Thankfully, it’s been amazing to see some less frightening wildlife; including coatis, lizards, stunning birds including soaring vultures, racoons, armadillos and even a possum!
I look forward to sharing more in a couple of weeks…