By Jackie Fahrenholz, Kat Dixon, Jessie Titus, Collin Breidenbach
With the holidays quickly approaching, what better gift to give the kids than a trip to see one of the most beautiful birds on the planet in its natural habitat? The Scarlet Macaw is one of the most fascinating animals alive, with breathtaking red, yellow, and blue feathers. Flying at a speed of 35 miles per hour, these birds can be seen in flocks as large as thirty individuals as they search for the hardest nuts in the forest as their beaks have thirteen times the strength of the human bite force. These birds are the largest known species of parrot in the world, with a five-foot wingspan they can travel up to fifteen miles per day. Once found in abundance throughout the Amazon Rainforest, recently they have been seen to decline as their habitat is being destroyed because of trees being cut down.
Although their beautiful flocks are seen less and less frequently, there is an ever increasing opportunity to see the animals through ecotourism companies. Vacations taken to the center of the Amazonian Rainforest will allow families with children of all ages to view these majestic animals. Clay licks, where Macaws congregate to eat minerals and clay to help digestion, are found along the edge of rivers and can be easily accessible by all persons. They visit the clay licks quite often for a source of protein, while they get the rest of their energy from plants and fruits, sometimes devouring a few insects in the process. When having the opportunity to be meters away from these birds in the wild, people generally take notice that the coloration on their feathers is as unique as a human fingerprint, with no two being alike. These birds are also seen as a symbol of faith for a newly married couple as they themselves practice courtship in which they have the same mate for their entire lives. They are one of only a few bird species that stay with their mate after the mating season and raise their chicks together.
To date, six of at least seventeen species of macaws have gone extinct because their homes are being destroyed. These birds are highly dependent on trees for feeding as well as nesting as they typically nest in previously made cavities or holes within trees. Generally speaking, these nooks and crannies are found in areas of older growth trees, which also happen to be a main target for timber companies when extracting lumber from these areas. One mill owned by the Madreacre Group alone manages 850 square miles of forest, making it the largest concession in Peru. In just last year they chopped through 40,000 cubic meters of wood from six different species. One of the main reasons that trees are cut down are for clearings for cattle ranching and for illegal mining concessions according to studies conducted in Peru. The same studies also mention that most of the timber extraction that occurs is illegal, making it impossible to know where in the world the wood product is ending up.
Not only are these animals extremely pretty to look at, they are also play a vital role in the persistence of the forest. Because they are seed predators, the macaws help spread seed pods around the forest allowing for the tree diversity to be seen more often than not and adding to the soil nutrient level. Without these birds, animals that live on the ground that feed on their scraps will also suffer as their food supply with decrease significantly.
The Amazon Rainforest is known to be one of the richest wildlife heavens on Earth despite all that it has undergone within the recent past. By 2030, it is estimated that at the current rate of deforestation, there will be no trees in roughly 27% of the area known to be this world wonder. 1,100 square miles in Peru are estimated to be cut down each year, with 80% conducted under illegal conditions. These actions not only affect wildlife but also account for over half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Predictions state that after the completion of the Interoceanic Highway that these rates will only continue to increase as the accessibility will increase to access these areas to not only extract timber, but to mine as well. With these predictions at hand, the likelihood that the children of the next generation will be able to see these majestic birds in the wild is going to seemingly be impossible.
Despite the deforestation, the Scarlet Macaws are faring well against the loss of habitat as they are believed to be the most resilient of the parrots within the Amazon Rainforest. It wasn’t until 2019 that the animal was protected under the Endangered Species Act, despite the stress it is under from human pressure. These birds are also now protected at an international scale by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Tourist groups help fund local foundations that work to protect the macaws by helping the animals who have been rescued due to injury, and work to protect the forest from illegal wood extraction.
Those who have visited the Amazon whether it be for vacation, research, or anything in between have claimed that the rainforest has changed their lives. To know that those in the workforce have control over whether or not their children’s children get to see these majestic animals in the wild is a lot of pressure. The world is ours to explore, and provides us with the opportunity to contribute to the conversation actions that are taking place. It’s time to act now to save this extraordinary bird before the plastic pink flamingo in the patch of grass on the suburban front lawn in your local neighborhood is the most natural bird you get the chance to see.