Non-profit Founded to Protect the Great Green Macaw is Itself in Danger of Extinction

The ARA Project, a Costa Rica non-profit founded in the 1980s by a German couple, has been working to rescue, breed and release endangered Great Green Macaws and threatened Scarlet Macaws. Now it is in danger of becoming extinct itself.

Online PR News – 02-October-2012 – Alajuela Costa Rica – The ARA project is a licensed zoological park dedicated to the protection of these two brightly colored bird species, both native to Costa Rica. The founders, Margot and Richard Frisius, donated the land to house the birds and planted more than 20 different types of fruit trees to serve as food.

Hotel La Rosa de America, a boutique hotel in Alajuela, has added its voice to the cause. To raise interest, the hotel is including in outgoing guest email, some basic information about the organization. “The founders died unaware that they had not given the land the legal footing they thought they had,” says Robert Hick, owner of La Rosa de America Airport Hotel and a volunteer for ARA Project. “The property is up for sale and the project will have to move unless something changes soon.”

There are less than 3000 Great Green Macaws left in the world, primarily in Central and South America. The ARA Project houses about 150 birds permanently, and the additional population of about 150 fluctuates depending on the stage of the breeding and release programs. Macaws are taken to the center after being confiscated by the government from poachers or donated by private owners. A macaw can live 60 years in the wild and 80 years in captivity. As a result, they develop strong personalities and a high level of intelligence.

There are less than 3000 Great Green Macaws left in the world, primarily in Central and South America.

“Our goal is to release 10 birds each year,” says captive wild animal specialist Chris Castles. Castles is a New Zealander who moved to Costa Rica in 2003 and got involved with the ARA Project. “It is a long, slow process. We strive for high survival rates and genetic diversity, so the breeding and reintroduction process takes time.”

From 1999 to 2012, more than 80 Scarlet Macaws were released on Costa Rica’s southwest coast. The survival rate has been close to 90% for released macaws, and they have successfully reproduced on their own in the wild. The first 10 Great Green Macaws were released in 2011 on the Caribbean side of the country--the first Great Green Macaw reintroduction in the world.

Recently several small hoteliers have joined the cause to protect the macaws. When he’s not running his San Jose Costa Rica airport hotel, Robert Hick is donating his time and resources to help the ARA Project stay afloat.

What does the ARA Project need to survive? Hick answers: “First of all, it needs the stability that the Costa Rican government could provide by protecting the land legally. Second, it needs a reliable source of income from either the government or private donors.”

“There is so much to be done,” continues Hick. “On any given day 1-6 chicks have to be fed every 90 minutes a special food identical to what they would have received from their mothers. That food is imported and expensive. A massive amount of fruit needs to be prepared to feed adults birds. Then the infrastructure of the project needs to be improved—better cages and habitats. We want to attract tourists and other visitors to the center and get them involved with the project through “Adopt A Bird” programs. All the birds have distinct personalities and names--this year we are naming them after cars. Come and adopt Alpha or Romeo!”

“Our goal is for the ARA Project to become self-sustaining,” concludes Hick. “That could be possible through increased support from the Costa Rican tourist industry and if other countries would get behind what we are doing here and offer assistance of any kind.”

The ARA Project is located near the international airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica. Visitors are welcomed by appointment. For more information, visit www.thearaproject.org/.

Hotel La Rosa de America is a small boutique style hotel located near the San Jose Costa Rica airport. We actively support a number of non-profit organizations in Costa Rica such as the ARA Project. We sincerely hope you will assist us in helping the Great Green Macaw to survive.

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