The Blue-throated Macaw in the Wild: a Cause for Concern


Globally restricted to an area in central Beni department, Bolivia, measuring hardly 15,000 square km. (9,300 sq. miles) and moreover bearing the unenviable status of a globally threatened species (Collar et al., 1992), the Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) calls for long overdue attention from the conservation world.

Until quite recently the only information available on Ara glaucogularis was mainly morphological data from five museum skins and from observations of the various captive individuals dotted around the globe. In terms of wild studies, however, Ara glaucogularis still remains one of the most mysterious birds in the world. Since the last reported sighting of the species in the wild over a century ago, various investigators reported dubious findings of the macaw as far south as southern Bolivia and northern Argentina and Paraguay (see in Ingels et al. 1981), although these were probably due to confusion with the superficially similar Blue and Yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna).

The Beginning

The first studies of Ara glaucogularis in the wild swiftly followed the sudden re-discovery of the species by Charles Munn of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in August 1992 (Jordan & Munn, 1993). With the help of his local guide, Munn immediately started a small scale experimental nest program in the then only known locality where the species had been found. The resident macaws were guarded, and encouraged to dig nest holes by starting the work for them. It is worth mentioning that tourists and bird watchers from all over the world eagerly contact us to visit this famous site anxious to see for themselves one


of the jewels of Bolivian avifauna.

The rediscovery of the long forgotten Ara glaucogularis coincided with the foundation of the Arrnonia Association, since 1994 the BirdLife International Partner Designate for Bolivia. One of the first challenges taken up by Arrnonia was to map for the first time the distribution of the Blue-throated Macaw (Hesse & Jammes, unpublished). With financial backing assured by WCS, the five month exploration and distribution study was effected using very simple means based mainly on habitat focused searches, and most importantly, local hearsay (although the latter upon several occasions proved to be an unreliable source of information). It quickly became evident that Ara glaucogularis appears to be dangerously low in density, and what is more, to be extremely patchily distributed within a relatively confined distribution.

These alarming observations together with the knowledge of the presence of marauding hunters for the illegal pet trade spurred us on to the next step of the Ara glaucogularis Project and, thanks to financial support provided by Lora Parque Fundacion as well as some extra hacking from Charles Munn, the census of the species' wild population has been underway since spring 1995. There is still some fieldwork to he completed for us to arrive at a total count, but enough ground has been covered to allow us to estimate that barely 100 individuals make up the current population of Bluethroated Macaws in the wild. If this figure is anywhere near correct, we are indeed justified in our fears for the species survival and it is imperative that appropriate measures be taken



As important as purely scientific study is, contact with local human inhabitants is just as important, if not more so. It is an undeniable fact that those people who live in the vicinity of the Blue-throated Macaw will hold the future of this species in their handsfor better or for worse. The problem in most cases is that very few of the local inhabitants are aware of this intrinsic responsibility. Be it from confusion with the all too similar Blue and Yellow Macaw, or simply from a lack of interest, the great majority of those people who co-exist with the Bluethroated Macaw are blissfully unaware of this species' existence. Those few who do recognize the macaw generally remain unconcerned by its worrying scarcity in the savannas of the Beni.

This is a situation for which these people can hardly be reproached. What conservationists can do, however, is set about their task in the most intelligent way possible and this involves a lot of positive contact with both the humbler people of Beni and the powerful landowners on whose property the species occurs.

The Blue-throated Macaw shows all the symptoms of an animal which Man is once again irrevocably, although sometimes not always consciously, pushing towards the brink of extinction. To reverse this process the human co-habitants need first of all to know this species exists, and secondly, they need to acquire the will to prevent its disappearance from their landscape. The slow processes of awareness and attitude change have been applied to fight the extinction of many species across the world. In many cases the result obtained is merely a facade or, at best, a shift in fashionable thinking. But in equally many other situations true conservation action has come forth. The key to winning the understanding, trust and long-term cooperation of any human beings is to approach them at their own level. Education, which in this case is environmental in nature, is a tried and tested means to accomplish this.





Collar NJ .. Gonzaga L.P .. Krabbe N .. Madrono Nieto A .. Naranjo L.G .. Parker III T.A Wege D.C.. 0992) Threatened Birds of the Americas. The ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book, 3rd Ed, Part 2. ICBP. Cambridge, U.K.

Boussekey M., Morvan O. Sant-Pie J. (1992) Preliminary observation of the Bluethroated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis, North of Trinidad. Bolivia. (Unpublished).

Hesse A.J. Jammes L (1993) A preliminary assessment of the distribution of the Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis), Beni. Bolivia. (Unpublished).

Ingels J, Parkes K.C., Farrand Jr J. (1981) The status of the macaw generally but incorrectly called Ara caninde (Wagler). Le Gerfaut. 71:283-294

Jordan O.C., & Munn C.A., 0993) First observations of the Blue-fronted Macaw in Bolivia. Wilson Bull.105(4) 694-695

Rojas P.F., Catalogo de plantas. U.M.SA Agronomia. La Paz Bolivia. 1990.