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SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE
SANDOVAL LAKE RESERVE
TAMBOPATA TOURS - MANU NATIONAL PARK - LODGE

The Tambopata Macaw Clay Lick Project – Chuncho Lodge

Developing techniques to increase – Macaw Reproductive rates

Large macaws are among the most spectacular and revered birds in the world. Unfortunately, they are disappearing from many areas of the tropics. For example the Guayaquil subspecies of the Great-green or Buffon’s Macaw (Ara ambigua guyaquilensis) is in imminent danger of extinction (K. Berg pers. com.). In Costa Rica, the Great-green Macaw (A. a. ambigua) has been eliminated from 80% of its former range and only an estimated 200 remain (Powell et al in prep.). In Bolivia the Blue – throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) has been reduced to less than 200 individuals (Hess 1999). In addition, all the blue macaws, Glaucus, Lear’s, Hyacinth and Spix’s, are either extinct or gravely endangered (Collar 1997, Juniper and Parr 1998). As a result, there is an urgent need to aid the recovery of macaw populations. The work described here uses three species of large macaws in Peru as a model system to develop techniques that can be used to help the recovery of other macaw species throughout the New World tropics (tambopata lodge chuncho clay licks).

The threats that face macaws are many and include habitat loss, hunting and collecting for the pet trade. Habitat loss takes many forms including clearing for agriculture, cattle ranching and logging. Agriculture, ranching and the subsequent human settlement eliminates the majority of the vegetation but in some instances may leave sufficient food resources to support populations at least over the short term. Tropical logging operations are usually very selective, targeting first the largest examples of marketable trees. This leaves a large amount of vegetation standing including many possible food trees. Macaws are dependant on large, pre-existing tree cavities for nesting (lodge tambopata chuncho clay licks).

In many instances the nest trees they use may be hundreds of years old and even in virgin forests the lack of suitable nest trees limits the number of macaws that can breed each year (Munn et al. 1991). Logging operations that target these large trees do insidious damage to macaw populations. The forests may look health and still have relatively large numbers of macaws, but without suitable nesting sites, the macaw population is doomed to decline to extinction (tambopata chuncho clay lick).

Collection for the pet trade is a major threat to nearly all populations of large macaws (Juniper and Parr 1998). Collection techniques are varied and can target either adults or chicks. Adults are captured in a variety of ways either for food, feathers or to be sold as pets. Snares are placed on suitable perches. In Ecuador collectors set fires at the bases of nests and the smoke is used to knock out or kill the adults (J. Socola pers. com.). In some cases adults are shot in the wing while flying and collected alive. The collection of young for sale is more common than the collection of adults. This is due mostly to the higher demand for young because of the fact that they make better pets (tambopata chuncho lidge clay licks).

The number of macaws taken from the wild can be considerable. At this point it is thought that there are more Blue-throated Macaws in captivity than in the wild, and rumors exist of a single shipment of nearly 200 of these macaws. If this is true, this one shipment alone contained more birds than the current wild population. When young are collected they are taken from nests in a variety of ways. Collectors often free-climb or use a combination of ropes and ladders to get to the nest holes and remove the young. When the collectors cannot gain access to the nests they often cut the entire tree to remove the young (tambopata lodge chuncho clay licks).

The fall results in the death of up to 60% of the chicks (González 1999). Collection for the pet trade is blamed for the disappearance of large macaws from many areas. This direct damage is compounded by the cutting of nest trees by collectors, the natural scarcity of suitable trees and further removal of large trees by logging operations (lodge tambopata chuncho clay licks).

These forces have combined to leave the macaws that do remain with few opportunities to nest. As a result, it is clear that just declaring new protected areas may be insufficient to allow macaw populations to recover from the decades of collection and tree cutting (tambopata lodge chuncho clay lick).

Previous research in southeastern Peru has shown that macaw reproductive rates in undisturbed areas are extremely low. This is due to three main factors: 1) suitable nesting cavities occur at a density of only one per 15 – 20 ha, 2) only about 60% of nests fledge young as predators and parasites combine to kill many chicks, and 3) successful nests usually fledge only one young even when 3 or 4 eggs are laid and the other chicks die of malnutrition (Munn et al. 1991, Nycander et al. 1995). As a result, a population of 200 macaws may produce as few as 8 young per year. From 1989 – 1993 work was conducted at Tambopata Research Center, Peru to develop techniques to increase the reproductive rates of wild macaws (Nycander et al 1995). During this 4 year study researchers 1) developed techniques to use live palm trees to create nest sites for Blue-and-gold Macaws, 2) constructed artificial nest boxes for use by Scarlet Macaws, and 3) rescued, hand-raised and released Blue-and-gold, Scarlet and Green-winged Macaw chicks. All of these resulted in great increases in the reproductive output of these three species in the area surround Tambopata Research Center (chuncho lodge clay lick).

The current project is a continuation of the 1989 study. The goal of the current project is to document the state of the work begun in the early 1990’s and develop additional techniques to increase the reproductive output. In particular the goals are to monitor the use and persistence of palm trees used by Blue-and-gold Macaws, monitor the use of artificial and natural nests by Scarlet and Green-winged Macaws, monitor the survival and reproduction of the hand-raised macaws. In addition the project seeks to develop new methods to save chicks that are doomed to starvation that do not require handraising (tambopata lodge chuncho clay lick).

An alternative to hand-raising is of interest because the hand-raised chicks released at TRC have no fear of humans and are inclined to approach people looking for food. As a result the birds raised in this way could not be released in an areas near population centers where there is a risk of them being captured or killed by people (tambopata chuncho clay licks).

Methods Tambopata Macaw Clay Lick – Chuncho Lodge

Study Area Chuncho Macaw Clay Lick:

The study site is Tambopata Research Center (TRC) located in the extreme western edge of the Amazon basin at the base of the Andes Mountains in southeastern Peru (reserve tambopata – chuncho lodge).

The center is located 50 meters from the Tambopata River deep inside the 1.5 million hectare protected area composed of the Tambopata-Candamo Reserve Zone and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. The site is covered with tropical moist forest with a canopy of 30 – 35 meters and occasional emergent trees rising to 55 – 60 meters (Terborgh 1983, Munn et al 1991). The area boasts healthy populations of three species of large macaws, Blue-and-gold (Ara ararauna), Green-winged (A. chloroptera) and Scarlet (A. macao). The center is located a few hundred meters from a large clay lick where up to 250 macaws can be seen coming to take clay (Munn et al 1991). The abundance of macaws in the area makes this site an ideal location to develop new management techniques as there are sufficient individuals to obtain relatively large sample sizes (reserve tambopata – chuncho lodge).

Palm tree nesting – Tambopata – Chuncho – Lodge:

In the early 1990’s when researchers first arrived at Tambopata Research Center Blue-and-gold Macaws were common visitors to the adjacent clay lick, but none nested in the immediate vicinity (reserve tambopata – chuncho lodge). In other areas the species nests in dead palms, especially in the large palm swamps dominated by the aguaje palm, Mauritia flexuosa (González 1999).

Researchers located a small palm swamp near TRC but there were no suitable dead trees for nesting. In 1992 the team developed a technique to cut the tops off the palm trees in the hopes of attracting nesting macaws (see Nycander et al 1995 for additional details). Cutting off the top exposes the soft center of the palm to water, fungus, and beetles that all combine to rot the center away and leave only the hard outer layers of the palm. This produces deep tubes useable by nesting macaws. Once the palms rotted out to a point where they were deep enough, the Blue-and-gold Macaws began to use them (Nycander et al 1995).

Since 1992, a total of 42 palms have been cut and they have been used extensively by both Blueand-gold Macaws and Red-bellied macaws (Orthopsittaca [Ara] manilata). Starting in November 1999, nests in the palm swamp were checked every 7 – 10 days. This was accomplished by observing the nest for 4 or more hours in the evening.

During these observations it was noted which nests had activity. The following day the contents of all active nests were checked. Due to the fragile nature of the dead palms and the depth of the nest cavities, the chicks could not removed from the nests. Instead the nests were checked by looking down in to the nests from the top using a combination of flashlights and mirrors as needed.

Nest boxes – Tambopata Chuncho:

As of November 1999 there were 12 PVC nest boxes hanging in the forests surrounding TRC. The nests are made from pieces of 14-inch (35 cm) or 12-inch (30 cm) diameter PVC pipe 1.5 m – 2.6 m long, lined with 2-inch x 2-inch (5 cm) diameter galvanized steel wire mesh to allow the birds to climb up and down the inside. Each box has two entrance holes placed at 90 degrees from each other near the top. The entrances range in size from 12 to 19 cm in diameter. Each box also has a small door near the bottom that allows the researchers to remove the eggs or chicks inside. In early September 1999 each nest was located and briefly observed to record adult activity. Starting 18 November 1999 each active nest was climbed once every 2 – 3 days (reserve tambopata – chuncho lodge).

Nests that had no activity were climbed once every 7 days. Each time a nest was climbed the following was recorded: presence or absence of adults, number of eggs, number of chicks, chick weight, chick culmen length, chick tarsus length and chick wing cord length.

During the first month of life chicks that did not continue to gain weight at a rate of 5% per day were checked every day. If they showed weight loss, began to act lethargic and had an empty crop we would check the chick again in the late afternoon. If the birds had not improved by afternoon we would feed the chick, filling its crop with a commercially available diet specially formulated for young macaws made and donated by Harrison Bird Diets. The chick was then checked the following morning and afternoon and fed if the crop was empty and if it failed to show significant weight gain (reserve tambopata – chuncho lodge).

Hand-raised macaws – Chuncho Lodge Tambopata:

Since 1992 a total of 34 macaws that would have died of starvation have been handraised and released at TRC (Nycander et al 1995 and unpublished data, Table 1). Of these 6 were Blue-and-gold Macaws, 5 were Green-winged Macaws and 23 were Scarlet Macaws. (reserve tambopata – chuncho lodge)

The birds were raised without trying to isolate them from human contact (see Nycander et al 1995 for more details). Since their release some of the birds have continued to return to the buildings at TRC to look for food on an irregular basis. From 26 August – 6 September 1999 and 18 November 1999 – 16 March 2000 observers recorded the date, time, tail condition, band number and species for any macaw that flew in and landed in the lodge buildings. To facilitate reading the small numbers off the metal bands the birds were often attracted closer and distracted by offering a banana. For each bird it was also recorded if they were accompanied by a potential mate. (reserve tambopata – chuncho lodge)

 

 

 

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