A Brief Background

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Great Green Macaw species
reintroduced into the wild

The foundations for Ara Manzanillo began over 35 years ago through the efforts of Margot and Richard Frisius in Rio Segundo de Alajuela, Costa Rica. There they established a conservation center for parrots to help stop the alarming decline of these magnificent birds in Costa Rica. Over time, many confiscated macaws were donated to the center by MINAE (Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment) and by private donors, where they were rehabilitated and given the opportunity to breed with the hope that their offspring could fly free in the wild.

After the founders passed away in the late 2000s, the birds were placed in the care and custody of the Beruite family, along with other collaborators, thus beginning The Ara Project. To protect the long-term viability of the program, The Ara Project was legally established as an official non-governmental association, Asociación El Proyecto Ara, in February 2012.

Ara Manzanillo – Great Green Macaw Reintroduction Project

In 2010, The Ara Project initiated a Great Green macaw reintroduction project in the South Caribbean region of Costa Rica near Manzanillo in a national wildlife refuge. This project represents the first time, to our knowledge, that the Great Green macaw species are reintroduced into the wild anywhere in the world. The objective of the project is to establish a self-sustainable population in the region. This group could eventually link up with the remaining wild populations of Great Greens of northern Costa Rica and the wild population of central and northern Panama..

The South Caribbean area of Costa Rica is selected for this project mainly because of the regions extraordinary natural habitat protected by the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge within the county of Talamanca, which has 88% of its territory under some category of environmental protection, supplying abundant food for the macaws. Another important reason for selecting this area for the project is that historically Great Greens were endemic in this region but became virtually extinct. The project has the decisive support of local property owners, the tourism sector, the public education system, local authorities including the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment, as well as other authorities and community groups, who are committed to overcome the threats that brought the past extinction of these emblematic birds. An intense community outreach program that The Ara Project has developed constantly reinforces this local support and the project has become a well-established conservation NGO in the region with strong and varied alliances.

Between 2010 and 2013 forty-five young Great Green Macaws were brought to the Manzanillo site from The Ara Project breeding center in Alajuela. After a careful gradual process of adaptation to the new environment they were released to fly free in their new habitat. Out of the forty-five, five birds have been confirmed dead, between twenty and thirty daily visit the release station for supplemental feeding and to socialize with the other Great Green subgroups. The remaining ten or so released birds have dispersed into a 50-kilometer radius and we frequently received reports of sightings from our network of community supporters.

In 2015, the Ara Manzanillo research station received a small grant to initiate an artificial nesting program to facilitate the reproduction in the wild of the macaws that were released. The program began for the 2016 breeding season with 5 nest boxes, specifically designed to attract Great Greens and spread out and installed high up in rainforest trees. As of 2018 breeding season, we have 15 artificial nests installed and from these nests 24 new Great Greens chicks have survived and joined the free flying population. Each year we have learned and improved the nest design and monitoring process.

What started as an experimental release station in the South Caribbean region of Costa Rica, after eight years of consistent dedication of many volunteers from around the world and a small core of committed staff working together, guided by the technical support from global parrot experts, Ara Manzanillo has developed into a well-established successful project. Our staff of young local Talamancans is well versed and trained in bird husbandry and wildlife monitoring, forestry and tree climbing, as well as community outreach, tourism and public relations activities. The initial objective of establishing a self-sustaining population of Great Green macaws in this region is well underway to being fulfilled.

Long-term Sustainability

To protect the long-term viability of the project and augment the professionalism of the work being completed, The Ara Project, now Ara Manzanillo, was legally established as an official non-governmental association, Asociación El Proyecto Ara, in February 2012. The aim of the newly formed organization remains the same as original founders’ goals — to ensure the long-term future of wild parrots in Costa Rica, through restoring macaws to their historic range in Costa Rica, contributing to the scientific community, encouraging the protection of tropical forests, and educating the public to assure the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations for many years to come. The project receives financial and technical support from national and international institutions and NGOs, as well as from hundreds of visitors that come to the release station and also visitors to this webpage.