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Tales from the Rainforest

How studying Macaws can save the Amazon

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM / by Jeff Cremer

How studying Macaws can save the Amazon

It’s one of the most stunning sights in the Peruvian rainforest. Every morning, just after sunrise, a riot of rainbows swoops down on the world’s largest avian clay lick in the southern jungle of Peru.

The rainbows are actually birds — large macaws, parrots, and parakeets, feathers colored in ultra bright shades of red, yellow, green, and blue.

Few visitors ever get to see this daily congregation of bird life. The clay lick, called the Collpa Colorado, is located more than 6 hours by boat from the nearest town. The Tambopata Research Center, a remote jungle lodge operated by the ecotourism company Rainforest Expeditions, enjoys a privileged location just 500 meters away.

Bird fanatics make once-in-a-lifetime trips out here specifically to witness this spectacle of sound and color. Researchers likewise flock here to study macaw behavior and to catalogue the extreme biodiversity of the surrounding Tambopata National Reserve.

But — cue the dark clouds, lightning, and thunder — this paradise for birds is in danger of destruction.

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Macaw survival and rainforest conservation go hand in hand

There is gold in the river beds and oil in the ground of Peru’s jungle areas. Industries are keen to extract these resources no matter what the costs to wildife and the environment.

Macaws have already experienced habitat loss as a result of road building, tree logging, and clear-cutting for crops and cattle ranching.

In the early 2000s, conservationists and ecotourism allies lost the battle to halt construction of the Transoceanic Highway through the Amazon of Peru and Brazil. Completed in 2011, the road now cuts a swath through previously unaccessible areas of the rainforest.

We have not yet accounted for the impacts of the highway, but scientists believe that population fragmentation and extinction will be among the long-term consequences for macaws and other species.

The only way to save macaws is to keep pristine areas of the rainforest intact. The alternative — loss of wilderness areas, deforestation, environmental pollution, extinction of rare species found nowhere else in the world — is simply unacceptable.

The project to save macaws

Developed in collaboration with the ecotourism company Rainforest Expeditions and the NGO Filmjungle.eu Society, “The Macaw Project” is a documentary project that will showcase exclusive footage obtained by scientists on the front lines of macaw conservation research in Peru’s southeastern Amazon. The goal of the film is to bring attention to the problems facing macaws and to propose solutions for how to save them.

“The film will introduce the viewer into secret places of the rainforest never inhabited by any people and not visited by tourists,” says George Olah, PhD scholar at Australian National University and lead researcher for “The Macaw Project.” After a successful fundraising campaign through Indiegogo, Mr. Olah and his colleagues are currently in the script writing stage and expect to complete the film by April 2015.

Scientists are among the few outsiders allowed to enter the wildest parts of the Amazon, including the Tambopata-Candamo region where Rainforest Expedition’s Tambopata Research Center is based. “The Macaw Project” places us in their mud-splattered boots as they go about the work of documenting macaw life cycles.

The rainforest looks quite different from the perspective of a macaw and studying their behavior yields fascinating insights not only about macaws but also about broader trends affecting the rainforest.

Peru for Less (PFL) is a proud sponsor of the “The Macaw Project.” The decision to support the film project was a no-brainer for Peru for Less Director Richard Leon. “I remember going to the Amazon, to Iquitos, for the first time when I was eight-years-old and I can still recall how amazing it was,” Leon said. “We must do our best to save the same experiences for future generations.”

The survival of macaws, and the entire web of life that exist only in this part of Peru, requires that we continue to protect the last remaining areas of pristine jungle. By highlighting the links between macaws and rainforest conservation, “The Macaw Project” aims to inspire discussion and to spark ideas for how to accomplish this important work.

Can tourism save the Amazon?

At Peru for Less, we see a direct link between supporting ecotourism providers and contributing toward Amazon conservation. “Peru is a fascinating country with incredible biodiversity,” said Mr. Leon. “We believe in supporting partners such as Rainforest Expeditions because they are leaders in developing best practices for sustainable tourism.”

When travelers ask us about what to see and do in Peru (beyond Machu Picchu), our first recommendation is frequently the Amazon near Puerto Maldonado. It’s a short flight to get there from either Cusco or Lima, and it is also a hotbed for ecotourism projects. Rainforest Expeditions operates three eco-lodges here, including the already mentioned Tambopata Research Center as well as the excellent Posadas Amazonas and Refugio Amazonas, where guests enjoy unexpected amenities such as wireless Internet and hot water showers.

Ecotourism is just one avenue toward rainforest conservation, but it’s an important one. Terra Hall, Brand Manager at Peru for Less, was a recent guest at Posadas Amazonas. “It is the most salient example of the circle of life I have ever witnessed,” said Hall. “I've always been a conservationist but after visiting and seeing the jungle firsthand and seeing the interconnected of life there, it strengthened my belief.”

The Amazon is one of the last places on earth where Mother Nature still rules. We want to help keep it that way, for macaws, for countless rainforest species, and for future generations of travelers to be able to experience the shift of perspective that comes from being immersed in a different world. We look forward to the premier of “The Macaw Project” premiers and to learning more about what we — both as a travel company and as travelers ourselves — can do to save this previous species and the environment in which they live.

Peru for Less

Peru for Less is a leading agency for travel to Peru. Since 1998, the company has been working with travelers to craft best value Peru travel packages. From the Amazon Jungle to Machu Picchu, Peru for Less specializes in travelers who seek worry-free, fully customizable tours and services combined with personalized attention from Peru travel experts.

                                                                                                                                    

Topics: macaws

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