A long-term scientific research project has been implemented in the Tambopata Research Center (TRC). Here in the Peruvian Amazon, biologists, veterinarians, and geneticists work tirelessly to study the enigmatic macaws in their natural habitat. The acquired knowledge helps them to maintain the species and protect this biodiversity hotspot from human intruders: the gold miners. However, scientific approach alone was not enough to protect the area. A clever, economic solution was needed, offering alternative incentives to local people to keep these forests standing: eco-tourism. The Macaw Project gives a glimpse to the everyday work of the researchers, while also explains cutting-edge techniques with novel findings in a comprehensible way. It reveals information about the tropical rainforest ecosystem based on hard scientific evidence.
In 1989, Eduardo Nycander, an architect from Lima and an amateur photographer, was impressed with the amount of macaws and other bird species that gathered in the collpa of one of the most beautiful sectors of Lower Tambopata. Determined to protect this valuable space, he summoned Kurt Holl, a forestry engineer at the Agrarian University, to initiate a research project that involved the species of psittacids they had registered. ”
For those who are not used to Amazonian life, clay licks or clay licks, natural clay deposits, usually located on headlands on a river bank, are used by certain birds and mammals to obtain sodium amounts and other minerals they need to mitigate the toxic effects of the seeds and other foods they consume.
At that time, the researchers of the project did not know that in the lower jungle macaws the young macaws also found the couples they were looking for to mate for life. And that the salts and compounds consumed served as indispensable purgative. But that is another story.
The macaws, distinguished from their other congeners by their enormous peaks and the nakedness of their facial skin, are the great seed dispersers in the Amazon forest and one of the birds most threatened by illegal hunting and destruction of their habitats.
For Nycander and Holle decided to venture into the nature tourism business in order to obtain the resources needed to finance studies and research on the conservation and reproductive ecology of macaws near the Tambopata Research Center, the shelter and center of research they had created the same year of their arrival in the paradise of the psittacids of Madre de Dios. Saving the macaws, we saved the forest, they thought quite rightly.
The first years of the Guacamayo Project were of tremendous anxiety: the funds to finance the research were not the best and the insecurity in the country made it impossible to promote the tourist promotion of these forests.
Even so, the two young researchers were not intimidated and with the help of the summoned teams they were making significant progress in their research. The wooden nests – of pona and cedar – and of plastic that they designed and placed 40 or 50 meters from the mainland in the concavities of the aguaje and shihuahuaco palm trees, the two giants of the forest adjacent to the CRT, were occupied with Success for very healthy couples of macaws. And the scarlet, blue and yellow and big-headed chicks began to grow without so many problems. It is in those years that the first macaws born in the TRC are raised in semi freedom.
Nowday, the concept and spirit of Nycander and Holle in preserving macaws resulting the Tambopata become the famous place on this planet for many researcher and traveller around the word. and its a pride for the Peruvian community. Hopefully there are the next generation who can emulate their hard work.