I’ve now been here for 4 weeks and I’m thrilled to report that I’ve been able to contribute to some exciting developments here!
Before arriving, I was particularly hopeful that I could put my bird training experience to some use and I am now in the process of doing just that; I have put together a plan and protocol for training a sample of the birds to be weighed regularly and have started this process with some of the Scarlet and Great Green Macaws from each zone.
I am doing all training with minimal contact with the birds (ie. giving food rewards from a bowl not my hand, and picking them up on a perch not my hand) to ensure they do not become too bonded to me personally, to ensure that other members of the current team (and future staff/volunteers) can continue to do this and, of course, to prevent injuries.
These are quite ‘wild’ birds who are not used to human interaction and there’s potentially more risk of a bite than I’m used to, I can’t deny it’s a little intimidating but so far, I’m still in one piece!
Occasionally, it is necessary to transport Macaws from one aviary to another, such as when they are not getting along, or when a pair are bonded enough to warrant having their own breeding quarters.
To make this process less disruptive and stressful for the birds, I will also endeavour to complete some crate training before I leave the Ara Project, so that they will happily go into a carry box when needed. I am also passing on as much of my knowledge and experience about training to the team as I can so that they can continue these valuable projects.
I have also been trusted to host the visitor tours, which I’m really enjoying and even taught a class of 35 children aged between 5 and 11 years old for an hour about Costa Rica’s Macaws, the threats they are facing, and the work the Ara Project do to protect their future.
It was a challenge but I think they really enjoyed it, especially getting to see the wild Macaws so close when they came to the feeders. It’ so important to inspire children about conservation issues because they will be the conservationists of the future!
So, in addition to the very rewarding work, I’m continuing to have a wonderful time outside of working hours too! I have been very fortunate to see a pair of Black Hawks during a trip to the nearby Corozalito beach and lagoon, where we also saw turtle tracks in the sand.
I’ve also seen Howler monkeys, the elusive White-faced Capuchin monkeys, a Basilisk (also known as the Jesus Christ lizard because of its talent for running on water) and the cheeky and very comical raccoons have been returning more regularly to the house to try and steal things from the compost bin.
A two hour horse trek was one of the highlights of my free time so far, during which we explored some beautiful local forest trails and open fields, which offered a fantastic view of the Scarlet Macaw flocks flying through the valley in the afternoon, we rode along the beach and finished at the top of a mountain overlooking the ocean and watched a stunning sunset.
With 2 weeks left, my thoughts are turning to what it will be like going back to my ‘normal life’ at the Butterfly House and leaving this beautiful place. There’s so much I will miss about being here but of course can’t wait to see my friends and family, and enjoy some home comforts!
Read all of Heather's blogs here.
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