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Costa Rica Pt.1 – The Ara Project

(A quick intro – Simone is the other main contributor to Wingtrip, but she’s been busy traveling, hunting bunnies with her hawks, and having intellectual freak outs about Carnivorous plants.  This is the first installment of her report from a trip to Costa Rica)

The GPS was confused. After circling many a block in Heredia, a town near the airport, we ended up five miles from where we had started.  Only it had taken us 1.5 hours. No matter we were in Costa Rica so I had barely noticed the length of the drive as we passed tiny houses with colorful clothes drying, graveyards with stark white, aboveground graves, and small shops advertising everything from tattoos to cow tongues. After an attempted use of a pay phone that didn’t work, we finally got a hold of Fernanda of the Ara Project, also known as Hatched to Fly Free, to tell her we were lost and our GPS was useless. She met us on the main street in town and we followed her down a winding road to the macaw sanctuary.

The first animals we saw were not macaws however; they were packs of friendly dogs rescued off the streets to greet us, along with a few cats. Chris, a young man from New Zealand, gave us a tour of the place and there were aviaries filled with Great Green Macaws (less than 200 survive in the wild in Costa Rica) and separate aviaries for the Scarlet Macaws. They clung to the sides of the aviaries as we walked by, their expressive faces following us almost as if they knew exactly what we were talking about. Many of these birds were hatched here and are waiting to be transported to release sites so they may join their brethren and help the dwindling population of these magnificent parrots survive. But other birds, in an aviary surrounded by plants, would never be returning to the wild. These birds were old pets or stolen from the wild and injured during the smuggling process. Many of these birds have a healthy distrust of humans (who can blame them?) but luckily have paired up and are producing chicks that will eventually be released in the wild. Their lives are not totally in vain.

When I think of all of these small organizations with very qualified people who are doing real “boots on the ground” work but are struggling to stay afloat I can’t help but wonder how we can change people’s priorities. Could anyone who has visited Costa Rica (especially for ecotourism) imagine it without macaws? If we let these magnificent birds slip away then the rest of the chain slides with them like a landslide into the sea.

To learn more about The Ara Project and how you can help please visit their website.

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