Census of Ara glaucogularis in Bolivia
The Blue-throated Macaw, Ara glaucogularis, is a Bolivian endemic that inhabits only the Llanos de Moxos, one of the two ecoregions of the pampas of Beni. This ecoregion in northern Bolivia is one of the largest grassland floodplains in South America. There, the Blue-throated Macaw frequents the strongholds of palm forests and gallery forests, where it feeds mainly on the fruit of the Motacú palm (Attalea phalerata) and nests in tree hollows during the rainy season (November to March). The macaw’s suitable habitat extends over an area of approximately 80,000 km2. The species is found mainly in pairs during the breeding season, but becomes more gregarious during the dry season, especially at communal roosting and feeding sites.
This species is considered to be one of the most endangered species in the world and is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered. One of the main factors affecting this species has been the lack of potential nesting sites and inter-species competition. Other macaws share the same habitat, including large nesting cavities which are scarce, especially considering the human impact on the Moxos plains of Beni over the last 100 years, where most large deciduous trees have been cleared.
The species was severely threatened in the past by legal and illegal exploitation for the national and international bird trade, although it has been radically reduced since the 1980s. It was at that time that Loro Parque Fundación first officially bred the species in a zoological centre and since then more than 400 birds have been born in its facilities. The birth of blue-throated macaws under human care has had a drastic effect on the illegal demand for specimens from the wild. It also serves as a safety net for the species in case of need.
It is worth mentioning that Loro Parque also maintains A. glaucogularis within the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) which guarantees the maintenance of the species in accredited zoological centres involved in the ex-situ management of the species.
Loro Parque Fundación’s technical and financial conservation support for the Blue-throated Macaw dates back to 1995. With just over 300 individuals estimated to remain in the wild, we have been fighting for decades to save them from extinction. By investing more than two million dollars in the species, the numbers have remained constant over the last decade and are expected to increase.
Loro Parque Fundación together with the Museo Noel Kempff Mercado and the Asociación de Aves Bolivianas are developing protection, habitat research and support with the installation of artificial nests that give the species a better chance to reproduce.
In the educational and social aspect, Loro Parque Fundación has been crucial in the protection of the species through the implementation of the use of artificial feathers for the headdresses used by the local population since ancient times. In the past, thousands of macaws were killed for these dances and nowadays the population, aware of the negative effect on the species, makes them with alternative materials. The success has been such that it has even been transferred to the world of fashion in the country. It has also helped to create a sense of belonging to the species to be protected, through art and culture.