Great Green Macaw- Colored Pencil ©2001 MLighthipe

For over 20 years I have been going to Costa Rica. I marvel at the diversity and the amazing array of shapes, colors, textures and sounds of the rainforest. One of the most thrilling things I have ever seen is a great green macaw flying in the wild. They are loud and gregarious and to see them flying rapidly like a rainbow streaking across the sky is breath taking. Through exotic pet trade these beautiful birds have been ripped from the wild to be stuck in cages as someones pet.

Scarlet Macaw- Colored Pencil ©2001 MLighthipe

The population of wild birds is dwindling but there is a husband and wife team who devoted their retirement years to breeding these macaws to release them into the wild. Richard and Margot Frisuis settled in Costa Rica and started Amigos de las Aves a non profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the two endangered species, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and the Great Green or Buffon’s Macaw (Ara ambigua). Amigos de las Aves incorporates breeding techniques, aviary management, environmental and key studies and conservation issues, in order to carry out controlled release programs in conjunction with MINAE (Ministry of the Environment and Energy) and Costa Rican laws. 

For over 15 years I took my artists and photographers to see Margot, Richard and all of the fantastic birds. Margot has passed away and Richard has retired from the sanctuary. The couple successfully released over 30 breeding pairs into the wild. To successfully release the birds volunteers must monitor and subsidize the feeding for 2 years. Their food in the wild varies from season to season. Birds which are bred and raised in captivity are hand fed and most of the food  is not necessarily what they will find in the wild. This is a tough hurdle to climb over in releasing them. They need to learn from their human volunteers what trees will be in fruit at what time of the year. Margot and Richard trained and worked with their volunteers to make this project a success. Their legacy has continued through the ARA Project, which is in conjunction with the World Parrot Trust.

Here is an awesome video from the ARA Project of a macaw from egg to feathers. It was filmed over a 90 day time frame. This is an fantastic film for natural science and wildlife illustrators as it show the pin-feathers of the bird and how it develops. It reminds me of the time lapsed photography I used to see on Walt Disney on Sunday evenings.

I will be taking my next group of artists and photographers to Costa Rica this coming February 2012. Although I won't be seeing Margot or Richard I am hoping that I will see some wild macaws streaking through the skies. My friends have done a marvelous thing!

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