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Macaw Population Being Revitalized in Nicoya Peninsula

New Breeding Site Being Built in Punta Islita

By Arianna McKinney

Photos by The Macaw Project

Once abundant in the Nicoya Peninsula, the Ara Macaw (lapa roja) population has decreased over the years, but efforts are now being made to help the macaws recover. 

Nelson Marin Mora, director of the Tempisque Conservation Area with Minaet in Nicoya, said there are now very few macaws in the peninsula, primarily because people have captured the vibrantly colorful birds to sell as pets.  However, Marin assured that the new Wildlife Conservation Law will help since it carries very strict penalties, with fines of up to 1.2 million colones ($2400) for anyone who has wildlife in captivity without authorization.  

“It’s more beautiful for them to be in their natural state,” Marin said.  “Seeing them in a cage is very ugly.”

A couple of macaws have been observed around Bolsón of Santa Cruz, Marin informed.  Another area where native macaws can still be found is in the area between Barra Honda and Palo Verde National Parks. In Barra Honda, a project to care for the macaws was established when a nest was found, with people looking after the nest for months until the babies hatched and were freed.

Additionally, a macaw liberation site has been established in Barcelo near Tambor, and about a year ago, the Ara Project introduced macaws in Punta Islita, fitted with identification rings and chips.  The birds were acclimatized and conditioned to the area before release and a study was conducted on the macaw’s local diet.  Marin related that their diet includes beach almonds, nances and wild jocotes, among others. 

Chris Castles, co-director of the Ara Project, related that in Punta Islita, they released 10 macaws last year (five pairs), of which 7 individuals were successfully established.  Three disappeared. A second release of macaws is planned for February. 

The Ara Project is also looking to move their breeding center from Alajuela to Punta Islita. “The people at Punta Islita have donated to the project 2½ hectares of land for us to move to and call our permanent new home,” Castles said.

Environmental education has also been conducted in the schools around Barra Honda and Punta Islita to encourage everyone in the area to protect the macaws.  Marin said that environmental education is one of the most important components of the projects.


Looking to the future, Marin said they would like to establish a protection project in another sector between Nicoya and Santa Cruz so that later the different macaw populations can have a genetic interchange. However, establishing a project requires identifying a good property as well as organizational and economic backing. 

If you would like more information about the Ara Project in Punta Islita or would like to donate funds or construction materials to help build a breeding center there, contact [email protected] or visit www.thearaproject.org.   


More nature news

Auction for Nosara Wildlife Rescue to Be Held Feb. 1st

Nosara Wildlife Rescue’s fifth annual fundraiser and auction will be held this year at Harbor
Reef’s Reef Restaurant on the evening of February1st. There will be a small entrance fee, which will include bocas and refreshments.  There will also be a cash bar.

Diria Park Protects Animals But Limits Owners’ Rights

The Diria National Park is one of the parks with the richest biodiversity in our country. However, the park’s creation has brought conflict for about 170 families whose properties ended up incorporated within the jurisdiction of the park.

New Nature Trail Opens in Nosara

December 12th marked the opening of a new hiking trail cut through the jungle on land administered by the Nosara Civic Association just off the “high road.”  With plans for expansion to about six kilometers, the current trail offers 2.1 kilometers of relatively easy hiking.

NY Students are Back and Working Hard to Finish Recycling Center

In order not to loose momentum of the construction of the new recycling center in Nosara, the students from the New York Institute of Technology decided to return to Nosara for the first three weeks in January to get as close as they can to completion.

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