The Red~fronted Macaw A Conservation Priority (Part 2)


by Leticia A. Alamia, Ph. 0. and John P O'Neill, Ph.D.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

In Part 1 of this article, we described population the Red-fronted Macaw's preferred habitat and some of the circumstances surrounding our search for this beautiful bird endemic to the dry interandean valleys of Bolivia. Now we must examine the task we have set for ourselves. We are planning a project for which the goal is the restoration of the Red-fronted Macaw population in the wild. The following are some questions that come to mind in setting up such a project. Some Population Questions:

• How many birds still exist in the wild?

• How many can their original home range still support?

• How many exist in captivity?

• Is the captive population producing sufficient replacement birds for the market? Some Natural History Questions:

• What is critical for this species to satisfy its natural food requirements?

• Can critical missing food supply

components be restored? ·

• What is critical for this species to reproduce successfully in the wild?

• Can reproductive requirements he met for existing and projected populations?

• Can critical existing reproductive and food supply components be protected?

Some Environmental Questions:

• To what extent is the survival of this species affected by deterioration of their original habitat?

• Can some deteriorated areas be restored?

• Can undamaged areas be protected?
Some Genetic Questions:

• Does the wild population have sufficient genetic diversity for the longterm survival of a healthy population?

• Does the captive population have sufficient genetic diversity for continued healthy propagation?

• Can captive propagation in Bolivia or the U.S. aid in restoring the wild
Some Conservation Questions

• To what extent has the survival of this species been affected by the past legal and current illegal harvesting of birds for international trade?

• Can we design ecotourism and conservation education programs which will educate the Bolivian and American people about the Redfronted Macaw?

• Can we initiate ecotourism and conservation education enterprises that will not only replace the income from international trade in live birds, but will exceed it and demonstrate the economic as well as aesthetic and cultural value of maintaining viable wild populations of Red-fronted Macaws and their habitat?

For the Future:

• Can we design a model propagation, recovery, and restoration plan for this species that can also serve in restoring other depleted wild species?

• Can we design model ecotourism and conservation education projects which will serve other threatened environments and species? WOW---that's a lot of tough questions!

How do we propose finding the answers? As we mentioned in the first article, we already have some information on this species. In addition, there are some real "pluses" in working with the Redfronted Macaw.

First of all, this species does not have a wide natural distribution and there are estimates of the numbers of birds in the wild population. Although these estimates must be verified, they can provide us with a starting point. Some other positive factors in initiating this study are that captive propagation has been successful and therefore we have some knowledge of their requirements in captivity. We also have some knowledge of their food habits and natural history in the wild.