First Biological revision of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, Beni, Bolivia
The first biological revision of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve is underway. Last night I had dinner with Dr. Ross Macleod, who works with Glasgow University and who has been behind helping to set up this volunteer research expedition. Mauricio Herrera, the Armonia/Loro Parque Fundacion Blue-throated Macaw conservation program coordinator has set up the seven Scottish researchers, including four Bolivian biologists on the reserve to study the birds, reptiles, mammals, plants, and fish for a month. We had hoped to have some kind of building set up for them by this time, but the economic recession has halted that development (we are seeking financial support for the reserve station and to build an ecolodge).
Ross was with the students for a week to set up their study methods and design. We concluded that the reason so many Blue-throated Macaws remain in this one last spot (around 1/3 of the world’s population) was because of very difficult access. We think illegal animal traffickers just could not get to this site. Our suspicion was supported when we tried to arrange for vehicle entry to the waterlogged- mud road area. In the end, they resorted to a real hardcore all terrain vehicle; an ancient 16×16 oxcart. The students were able to fly in to a neighbouring ranch.
The preliminary reports are very good. Ross was impressed with the savannah habitat, vast, healthy and interesting. Also the river Omo appears extremely interesting, protecting different stages of marsh and fresh water habitat.
And the Blue-throated Macaw? Well, the Barba Azul Nature Reserve will be rewriting history on this species. All research and knowledge about the Blue-throated Macaw before spoke of a solitary species, remaining in isolated pairs in remote areas. Previously, the macaw was known as a species where the typical observation was of a pair landing in a roosting palm island at dusk to disappear into the vegetation. Historically, the Blue-throated Macaw was a species next to impossible to study away from the nest.
Well, this has all been flipped on its head with initial observations in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve. Daily Mauricio and Ross observed large gregarious groups, from 15 to 25 individuals preening, flying, and foraging on the border and within the Motacu palm islands. One day three groups were seen, but they can not yet be sure it was not the same group. They will coordinate multi-observer surveys in the next few weeks to get a more accurate count of the Blue-throated Macaws in the area. Ross told me the reserve has given the students a warped impression of the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw- as it seems almost common in the area. But 20 miles west, north, south and east the species is almost non-existent, for hundreds of miles.