How We Work

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Establishing a New Population

Over the last several years, the Ara Project has established new populations of Great Greens in this location by utilizing a ’soft release’ protocol to gradually acclimate the birds to their surroundings before they are released. Prior to release, selected birds enter a 30-day quarantine to undergo regular health checks and disease testing. They are then housed in a large flight aviary where they spend a minimum of 2 months becoming gradually accustomed to their new surroundings and learning how to identify and consume naturally occurring foods. Once the birds are eating and foraging well, small groups are released over an extended period of time. Supplemental feeding of natural foods (such as beach almonds) are provided via high-hanging feeders near the release site for as long is required to maintain the birds’ overall health and well-being.

Assisted Reproduction Program

The reproduction of the Great Green macaws in the wild is a challenging quest. At about age 5 to 6 years the young birds reach potential breeding age and they begin seeking their mate to spend most of their life with. The Great Greens preferred nests are carved out from cavities left by broken branches high in the mountain almond tree (Dipteryx panamensis). Reproduction is a key component for establishing a healthy, self sustainable population in the wild. Since making a safe and adequate nest is so challenging for this species of birds, Ara Manzanillo has developed a unique nesting program for the reintroduced Great Greens. Bird eggs and baby chicks are a food delicacy for many predators in the rainforest: toucans, aracaries, hawks, monkeys, snakes, weasels and other carnivorous animals. We are still learning, experimenting and adapting the nest designs to overcome predator challenges as well as seeking the best interior materials to assure health and well-being of parents, eggs and chicks inside the nest.

The nests are placed at least 100 meters distance apart to minimize fighting of couples for domination and possession of the nest boxes. Approximately 15 - 18 nest boxes are installed in the forest spread over a three-kilometer radius from the station. Most of the nest boxes are installed higher than 25 meters up and tied to the trunk of the tree. Installing nest boxes is a challenging, three-person operation. The macaws usually take possession of the nests within a couple of weeks after they have been installed. Although we want to keep human interference with the breeding process to a minimum and prefer to leave the nests mostly undisturbed, our staff do climb up the trees to inspect inside the nest periodically and to band each chick with an ID anklets.

After 12-14 weeks the young chicks are covered with long, shinny feathers and they are ready to fledge flying out into the forest. They awkwardly learn how to fly, establish a new feeding schedule with parents and overcome the stormy weather of the rainforest.

Community Outreach Program

The survival of the Great Green Macaws in the region largely depends on humans’ understanding of their value. In this regard, Ara Manzanillo has prioritized our community outreach program. We have developed an active education program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment (MINAE) and the Ministry of Education (MEP). The program includes workshops and activities with local schools, as well as site visits for select students. Over 3,500 children from throughout the Southern Caribbean Talamanca region have participated in the project’s environmental education program. Coordination of joint events with other NGOs and key actors, including participation in national conservation and and sustainable development activities contribute to generate more support for reestablishing this emblematic species in Costa Rica. The organization has participated in over 100 environmental protection activities and workshops at both community and national levels.

In order to continue to promote understanding of and support for the conservation of this magnificent bird, Ara Manzanillo has published a children’s book, Pewe, and a construction manual for building and installing nests for Great Greens in the wild, both publications are available in our News and Media link.

To request a higher resolution version of Pewe that is better suited for printing, please contact