Status of Blue-and-yellow Macaws Ara ararauna Reintroduced to the Nariva Swamp, Trinidad and Tobago
Keywords:acclimation, behavioral monitoring, bonded pairs, social groups, nesting success, post-release monitoring, pioneer group, community involvement
The Blue-and-yellow Macaw, once native to the island of Trinidad, was extirpated in the early 1960s primarily due to nest poaching of chicks for the pet trade. Between 1999 and 2004, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Environment and the Centre for the Rescue of Endangered Species of Trinidad and Tobago (CRESTT) reintroduced wild-caught birds from Guyana to the Nariva Swamp in Trinidad. After quarantines, testing and physical examinations, the birds were acclimated in a pre-release flight cage and the flight readiness of the first 14 birds was monitored as the main criterion for release. Nine of the 14 birds released (64%) survived and produced 12 chicks in three nesting seasons. Three years later 20 additional wild-caught birds were imported from Guyana and the criterion for their release was expanded to include social behaviors such as pair bonding and compatible groups. There was 100% survival of the 17 flight-ready birds released from the second flock. Bonded pairs and compatible groups that were released stayed together and exhibited behaviors indicating healthy social structure. Fourteen additional chicks were produced in three more nesting seasons. Twenty-six of the 31 birds released (84%) survived. Nesting success continued with the surviving population now estimated at 86 birds. This represents a 230% increase over 12 nesting seasons. Several factors have contributed to the survival and reproductive success of the reintroduced birds. This status report identifies some of these factors and suggests that Blue-and-yellow Macaws can be successfully reintroduced to a habitat from which they were extirpated when conditions are favorable.