The scarlet macaw (Aramacao) is one of the most emblematic birds of Costa Rica. Its importance lies not only in its great beauty but also in its ability to coexist with humans, its importance as an umbrella species (by ensuring its protection and survival, the conservation of many other species is also ensured), and for being a source of ecotourism.
Although this species has become an iconic symbol of Costa Rican fauna, various threats, such as illegal trade and the destruction of its habitat, have reduced its populations in the wild. To counteract this worrying trend, numerous conservation projects have emerged in the Costa Rican Pacific region, where one of the only two viable populations of scarlet macaws in Costa Rica is maintained and is considered one of the most important populations in Mesoamerica.
As part of the initiatives of the La Cangreja National Park Research Program, the richness of the birdlife present in this Area has been monitored
Protected Wilderness and its buffer zones, through annual bird counts, which have already been carried out on five occasions thanks to the support of collaborators and experts from many parts of the country, including local ones. These counts have allowed us to document the presence and movements of the Scarlet Macaw, analyzing particular studies of the information to determine an average number of individuals in this sector of the Central Pacific.
Conservation programs have quadrupled the population of this species in the Central Pacific
For this year (2023) and as part of the actions reflected in the La Cangreja National Park Management Plan and Specific Research Plan, the decision was made to articulate efforts in monitoring and research with other non-governmental organizations related to Conservation and Protection of the Scarlet Macaw as a focal management element and emblematic species.
In this way, the citizen science process called “Participatory Biological Monitoring of the Red Macaw” had the valuable support and involvement of institutions, organizations and companies such as: MINAE, MAG, UNDP, SINAC, ACC, La Cangreja National Park, Paso de Las Lapas Biological Corridor and Punta Leona Hotel.
Likewise, ten educational centers were involved in the participatory monitoring process of the LapaRoja for 2023: Liceo Rural La Palma, Liceo Rural Lanas. Güetar de Zapatón Indigenous Rural High School, Mastatal Rural High School, La Gloria Professional Technical School, San Antonio de Tulín Rural High School, Coronel Manuel Arguello- BijagualTurrubares High School, Turrubares Professional Technical School, Tárcoles Professional Technical School and El Llano Turrubares Rural High School.
Finally, the results of the 2023 count showed that 2,121 individuals were identified, with 1,765 individuals during hours and 365 outside of hours. This figure represents a 180% increase compared to 2022, in which 1,177 individuals were identified. Prior to this, in 2020, the total was 978 and 1,501 in 2019.
These results demonstrate that the scarlet macaw has responded positively to the conservation strategies implemented in the region, such as environmental education, construction of artificial nests and control and protection efforts, which is why its population is considered to have increased and its distribution in the Central Pacific has quadrupled, its genetic diversity remains high.
Punta Leona Hotel’s Scarlet Macaw Conservation Program
One of these conservation programs, which today is one of the most important that exists in the area, is the Punta Leona Hotel’s Scarlet Macaw Conservation Program, through which the free reproduction of scarlet macaws is promoted through the construction and placement of artificial nests, monitoring with video cameras and reforestation with related species.
«Punta Leona is proud to be one of the founders of the Central Pacific Scarlet Macaw Conservation Program. When we started 30 years ago together with educators, universities and scientist Christopher Vaughan, we believed that the project could help save this threatened species and we committed to the placement of artificial nests, environmental education programs, tree planting and scientific studies. Currently, the number of sightings and the territory covered by the species are an indicator that the program has been a fundamental part of the recovery of the species,” commented César Vargas, Corporate Relations Manager of the Hotel Punta Leona.
This program began in 1994 in the Tárcoles district of the Puntarenas canton of Garabito led by the Hotel Punta Leona in coordination with Dr. Christopher Vaughan from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During this year, scarlet macaws were identified as concentrated in the lower part of the Tárcoles River around Carara National Park and the Guacalillo Mangrove Reserve, but their populations were in rapid decline.
For this reason, in-situ management actions began to be applied, such as: the protection of the habitat and chicks in their nests, environmental education about the scarlet macaw in rural schools and towns, the planting of trees used by the scarlet macaw and the construction and placement of artificial nests. As well as the monitoring of nests with 24/7 cameras, which can be seen on the web in real time at lapasrojaspuntaleona.com
Subsequently, organizations and institutions such as the MEP, local farmers, SINAC, ecotourism groups, local communities and donors were involved. Likewise, scientists from the University of Texas have been in charge of weighing, measuring and analyzing biological data from the limpet chicks. Today, the bird is often seen in Puntarenas, Esparza, Orotina, San Mateo, Jacó, Bijagual, Acosta, Puriscal, La Cangreja National Park, and Parrita.
The Hotel Punta Leona’s Scarlet Macaw Conservation Program is part of the Regenerative Tourism concept promoted by the hotel, in which it creates tourist experiences that activate deep connections between visitors, the local community and ecosystems, creating shared value and restoring the natural and sociocultural capital.