If you look closely around southeast Ohio, you can spot many different kinds of birds from cardinals to red-tailed hawks. A bird you won’t see in your backyard, however, is the scarlet macaw. This beautiful large bird prefers the warmer, tropical habitat of Central and South America.
Unfortunately, scarlet macaw populations are declining due to habitat loss and wildlife trafficking. Lucky for this red bird though, there are some great people doing important work to help increase the population. We were fortunate to have Colum Muccio, the Administrative Director of the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS), visit the Zoo last month to tell us how the ARCAS Wildlife Rescue Center helps save the scarlet macaw and other Guatemalan wildlife, which is an effort the Zoo has supported over the years.
Every year, the ARCAS Wildlife Rescue Center, located in Guatemala, takes in hundreds of animals confiscated from the wildlife trafficking trade by authorities, ranging from margays to howler monkeys to, of course, scarlet macaws. Rehabilitating wildlife requires special protocol in order to protect both the humans and the animals throughout the process. The ARCAS team follows a five-step plan with a goal to release as many animals as possible back into the wild.
Step 1: When an animal arrives at the center, it immediately goes into quarantine. During this time, the animal is isolated to keep all animals at the center safe from injury and potential diseases. It also gives the animal a chance to settle in to its new temporary home.
Step 2: Once the medical and safety needs of the animal are met, it is moved to an enclosed area usually outside the center. At this point, the animal is encouraged to live as naturally as possible, yet it is continuously monitored for its health.
Step 3: Eventually, the animal is moved to an even bigger enclosure that closely mimics its natural habitat. Here it has plenty of room to exercise its natural behaviors. Humans interact with the animal as little as possible, so it can get used to being back on its own.
Step 4: Within this step, even less human attention is given. One goal during this time is to eventually see the animal acting just like they would in the wild. A good sign of this is when the animal is no longer interested in being close with people!
Step 5: Release! The animal is released back into its natural home healthier and stronger than it was before. Often, a tracker is placed on the animal to help the team better understand where it goes and what happens after its release.
ARCAS also works to educate the community on the impact of the illegal pet trade and other issues on wildlife. This is all in the hopes that these dangers will eventually become much less of a problem for the animals, and they can live a long and healthy life right where they belong!
Though we don’t have scarlet macaws here in Ohio, our local wildlife species face similar issues to the scarlet macaw, such as habitat loss. While rehabilitation of wildlife should be left to trained professionals, there are some simple ways that you can build a better home for wildlife in your own backyard. Consider putting up a bird house to offer shelter to our feathered friends. You’ll get to see some amazing local birds that will be very happy to have a new cozy home.