Conservation Project of May
The beautiful Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the Red List of Threatened Species of the IUCN. Continuously since 1995 the LPF has maintained a partnership with the Bolivian NGO, Armonía, to save this macaw, found only in the department of Beni in northern Bolivia. Even though individuals of the Blue-throated Macaw had been coming into captivity through trade in the 1979s and 1980s, the geographical location of the species in the wild was only scientifically described in 1992.
The species in the wild was immediately diagnosed as very threatened, with a tiny population and restricted range, and with habitat destruction and disturbance, potential illegal pet trade and hunting for feathers as the main threats. The species presents a conservation challenge, because it is very sparsely distributed over a large territory of lowland, grassy plains which are seasonally flooded each year. Interspersed in these plains are ‘palm islands’, slightly raised areas on which forest can grow, dominated by the Motacú palm (Attalea phalerata), which is important for feeding and nesting of the macaw.
Each year the project has undertaken surveys to locate this species over the vast plains of “Llanos de Moxos”, extending westwards the known distribution of the species from the population east of the Rio Mamore. As recently as the year 2000, the lowest estimate of the wild population was of only 36 birds, but as a result of our project, by 2013 it had increased to 350, possibly more. In 2007, at a poorly accessible site of ten cattle ranches west of Santa Ana, the project team found the highest density of Blue-throated Macaws ever recorded. Two ranches (each about 3,000 ha) shared a roost of 70 Blue-throated Macaws, with other ranches holding flocks of 12-17 individuals. This discovery led Armonía to acquire to 5,500 ha land which is now the Barba Azul Nature Reserve. It is currently in the process of expansion to 11,000 ha. The protection of the species in the reserve can be secured, and the project can undertake aspects of research and conservation that were not possible on other private lands.