29 scarlet macaws were released in the state of Veracruz in Mexico in late August, increasing the wild population by 36%.
The species was almost wiped out 50 years ago from habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade, as the population was reduced from thousands to just 250. Defenders of Wildlife supports the Mexican National University’s Institute of Biology to reintroduce captive-bred macaws into the wild.
All reintroduced macaws are identified by marks on their bills, tags on their wings and transponders they carry that receive radio signals. Some birds also have radio transmitters so that the biologists can track them to see where they go and what locations might be best for future releases. Each of the identifiers and devices also helps prevent poaching of the birds.
The plan is to continue releasing macaws every three or four months for the next five years to build a stable population of 300-500 birds. Once these numbers have been achieved, Veracruz will be home to the largest wild population of scarlet macaws in Mexico.
Releases are just one part of recovery efforts, though, as there is also an intense reforestation program to slowly bring back lost habitat. In addition, there are quick bird identification guides to promote bird watching that will provide tourist income to local communities and prevent poaching.
Defenders of Wildlife has also created educational materials – including posters, children’s coloring books, and comic books for youths and adults – to teach the local communities about the importance of these birds and restoring the species to the wild.