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Home » 2009 - Issue 2, Issue, Making a Difference

The Blue Macaws of São Francisco do Perigara

By Ana Maria Baretto and Pedro Scherer Neto


An interview with Ana Maria Barretto and Pedro Scherer Neto on an amazing project to protect the largest known population of Blue Macaws in Brazil

This is the story of how one person’s love and respect for the Hyacinth Macaw has been responsible for the creation of an important conservation and field research project. It is the story of how Ana Maria Barretto has turned her working cattle ranch into a conservation tool. Over the years Ana Maria has hosted numerous researchers and donated transportation, food and lodging for the conservation team on her remote ranch in the north Pantanal of Brazil.

“The story of this very special place - where nature is completely preserved, where we can find one of the biggest populations of Blue Macaws ever known, where the economic activity is being developed without destroying nature - truly began with my father, Luiz de Figueiredo Barretto,” says Ana Maria.

“He bought the ranch, São Francisco do Perigara, in 1960. It is located at Pantanal of Barão de Melgaço. By that time, all the state of Mato Grosso was almost completely preserved. Many years have passed and, if we observe the result of the ‘development of the economic activities’, we realize that the price has been very high.”

The environment of the area had already been seriously damaged over a number of years, but, says Ana Maria, her father was ahead of his time, which allowed the ranch to take a different direction. “From him I learned the principles of preservation and  respect for nature.

My brother, Francisco Marcondes Barretto, who also is a preservationist, has helped my father for many years, and as a result of the philosophy of the family’s activity, it is possible to admire the great diversity of the fauna and flora of the Pantanal eco system on the ranch.”

Ana Maria believes that the turning point in the development of the ranch came as a result of her father’s vision.  From his observation of the habits of a flock of Blue Macaws, he noticed that the bocaiuva palms near the main house were the place where around 200 to 300 of them chose to sleep every night, and he realised that to protect this population of macaws, these palms had to be preserved.

“When I inherited this special place,” Ana Maria continues, “I felt it was my responsibility to keep alive this conservation work that had been developed.  My intention has not exclusively been focused on economic results, but paying attention to the way we manage our activities, and making sure that we do not disrupt the cycle of life.”

Ana Maria’s objective, from the start, was to understand more about what she calls “this amazing Blue Macaw population” and its habitat, so she got in touch with Dr Pedro Scherer Neto PhD and Dr Neiva Guedes PhD - well known experts on birds, and particularly on Blue Macaws - who undertook the development of the project.

Pedro Scherer Neto takes up the story.  “In July 1999, WWF-Brazil organized a workshop in the north Pantanal’s southern state of Mato Grosso, with the objective of building a big program for the conservation of the Blue Macaw in Brazil. Many ornithologists, ecologists and people from IBAMA were invited to attend by the biologist, Maria Bernadete Ribas Lange, a great friend of mine.”

The aim was to discuss the development of a program for the distribution area of the macaw, so - prior to the workshop - the whole team travelled to the São Francisco farm for a first-hand view of the movements of the macaws. Pedro, together with Maria Iolita Bampi, at that time the Fauna coordinator of IBAMA, travelled to the farm in one of the last flights from the city of Cuiabá, arriving at around 4.00 pm - at which time more than 90 Blue Macaws were perched on the fences along the pista de pouso.

“It was never expected!” says Pedro, “A wonderful surprise!  At the end of the day, all the people watched a large flock of these macaws arriving from north, west, south and east, to perch in the ‘dormitory’, the group of bocaiuva palms just in front of the main house of the farm! That day marks the PSN (Pedro Scherer Neto) life forever! “

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