In 2011, we reported in this e-newsletter and on that Xcaret Park’s scarlet macaw (Ara macao) breeding program had entered the Guinness Book of Records for the largest number of these rare birds born in captivity. At the time park vets had begun to work with biologists in Chiapas and with experts from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to see if the chicks’ DNA was compatible with that of wild birds in a reserve in the Palenque area with the goal of eventually releasing scarlet macaws into the wild. The tests proved successful and the first 27 macaws were transported to their new home in Chiapas in December 2012.

The birds are now adapting to life in a forest reserve, learning to forage for jungle fruit and nuts, identify natural predators, seek shelter in the treetops and fly freely. When they are ready to fend for themselves they will be set free.

Two more groups of birds will be sent to Chiapas this year and the goal is to have a potential breeding population of around 60 that will boost the numbers of this emblem species in the Lacandón Jungle, bringing it back from the brink of extinction.

Found in Mexico, parts of Central America and the rainforests of South American countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru, the scarlet macaw is threatened with extinction throughout its range due to habitat destruction and poaching for the illegal bird trade. It is estimated that only around 400 remain in the wild in Mexico. Xcaret Park currently has a population of 1,000, with 100 breeding pairs and 175 births in 2012.