We have a cheer for the largest known group of nesting blue-throated macaws — a critically endangered species numbering only about 300 that all live in the wild in Bolivia. A land purchase has made it possible for them to all live on a nature reserve.

The land purchase was made by Bolivian conservation organization Asociación Armonía with support from American Bird Conservancy, the International Conservation Fund of Canada, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust. 

The 1,680-acre reserve is located in central Bolivia in the Beni savanna. Previously a cattle ranch, it is the site of Armonía’s ongoing artificial nest box program, launched in 2005 to boost the macaw’s population. Demonstrating the potential for this area to support the recovery of the species, 51 blue-throated macaws have since fledged from the reserve, and in 2017, a pair of macaws that fledged from the nest boxes returned to breed.

The blue-throated macaw has been declining in population for the last century. Habitat destruction is a key driver of this decline, including the removal and burning of large trees suitable for nesting, while capture of the birds for the international pet trade has also played a role.

The new reserve, together with Armonía’s existing Barba Azul Nature Reserve, establishes a total area of protected land for the blue-throated macaw of 28,862 acres.
Friends of Animals recently sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect another macaw specie—the scarlet macaw. FWS failed to act on a petition FoA filed in January 2008 to have two populations of the scarlet macaw protected under the Endangered Species Act, and time is running out to protect this species.

A 2010 lawsuit that FoA brought against FWS for failing to submit a 12-month finding on the scarlet macaw resulted in a settlement in 2012, where FWS acknowledged that the listing was warranted, but still has not enacted any protection for the birds.

“We hope this lawsuit brings much needed protection for the scarlet macaw,” said Jenni Best, assistant legal director for Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program (WLP). “The Endangered Species Act mandates that the government finalize listing decisions within two years from receiving a petition, and we’ve been waiting over a decade now. We can’t wait any longer.”

Ongoing threats to the scarlet macaw are human development and deforestation, climate change and poachers who target them for the exotic pet trade. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms poses an immediate threat to the continued existence of the scarlet macaw throughout its range in Central America and northern South America.