Saving Guatemala’s Scarlet Macaws
Among Petén’s most beautiful creatures are the brightly colored scarlet macaws that once roamed freely throughout Petén. You’ll probably run into these large parrots throughout your travels in Guatemala; they are popular pets in hotel courtyards on account of their colorful red, blue, and yellow plumage—including two beautiful red tail feathers—in addition to their boisterous squawking and ability to mimic human speech.
Unfortunately, their populations have been decimated by habitat loss and wildlife poaching for the international pet trade. Still, there remain pockets where macaws continue to nest, and local scientists have taken it upon themselves to help protect what’s left of Guatemala’s dwindling numbers of these exotic birds.
In the dense forests that still surround the site of Waka’-Perú, biologists from several agencies working in Petén, including ProPetén (www.propeten.org) and Wildlife Conservation Society (www.wcs.org), have established Las Guacamayas Biological Research Station and protected nesting grounds. There are 21 nests in hollow forest trees and additional ”artificial” nests are being created. Like most parrots, scarlet macaws lay 2–4 white eggs in a tree cavity, with their young hatching after about 25 days. They fly about 105 days later and leave their parents as late as one year.
The nests at Waka’-Perú enjoy year-round protection by a joint military-police force charged with safeguarding Guatemala’s natural resources.
Volunteers are welcome at the site, giving visitors an exciting opportunity to help out in the conservation of Guatemala’s exotic creatures while helping to fund the biological station’s efforts.
For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit www.propeten.org.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com