FCD reports on Macaw Trafficking in Chiquibul Forest Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 June 2014 00:00

15th June, 2014
Last year, during the scarlet macaw breeding season a total of 13 active nests were identified along the banks of the Upper Macal and Raspaculo branch, of which 11 were systematically monitored. The other two nests failed at an early stage of development due to tree structural failure and early nest abandonment for an unknown cause.  The monitored breeding pairs laid a total of 24 eggs.  Of the 24 eggs laid, 12 hatched; while only 5 chicks successfully fledged the nest.

Of the monitored nest 63.63% failed.  Nest failure was attributed to tree structural failure (9%), natural predation (27.27%) and poaching (27.27%).  The poached nests contained 33.3% of hatchlings, while 16.7% and 8% of the hatchlings were lost due to tree structural failure and natural predation respectively.

The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao cyanoptera), the largest parrot species in Belize, is locally endangered due to poaching and listed as a species of high conservation concern in the Wildlife Protection Act of Belize.  Scarlet Macaw population estimates in Belize suggest that there are round 200 individuals in the wild (Matola & Sho 2002).  In Belize, the Chiquibul Forest serves as a key foraging and breeding habitat for the species.  Over the past 5 years Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) has been systematically documenting Scarlet Macaw breeding as well as poaching activities.  Efforts have been concentrated along the banks of the Macal and Raspaculo Rivers (main breeding grounds) and results have indicated that poaching is a severe threat to the survival of the Scarlet Macaw population in Belize.

This year in April during the early breeding period, FCD documented much activity of Guatemalan poachers along the area and soon loss of macaws. This triggered FCD to put patrols in the scarlet macaw priority protection zone. Neck points were monitored resulting in the close encounters with Guatemalan poachers. On one incident, 5th of May a Guatemalan was intercepted. In his possession was found a young scarlet macaw chick (less that 7 days old), a rifle and 43 bullets (.22 gauge). Unfortunately the chick died and the person did well his escape.

It is not known how much impact Guatemalan poachers are having on the parrot population in Belize’s Chiquibul Forest, however, it could be high. In 2013, FCD published a report on the effects of poaching on game species communities where it was evident that illegal hunting within the Chiquibul Forest had been increasing over the years due to an increase in xate extraction and illegal logging. At first, illegal hunting would have been for subsistence but over the years a shift has been observed in hunting for commercial purposes. It was also observed that juvenile game species were being extracted, believed to be destined for the illegal pet trade. One species highly targeted has been the scarlet macaw.

On the 22 of May, 70 red lored parrots and another 38 of different species of parrots were confiscated in Calzada Mopan, between the municipalities of Dolores and Melchor de Mencos. These parrots were found abandoned in boxes along the roadside by the Division for the Protection of Nature (DIPRONA). It is not clear the origin of these parrots, but anecdotal information points to Belize’s forests as the main target for the extraction of these birds. These birds are now found in a rehabilitation center in Peten.