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Update from the field: Asociación Armonia

Founded in 1993, Asociación Armonia, one of the three projects supported by Zoo Atlanta’s Quarters for Conservation initiative in the 2019-2020 program year, made it their mission to conserve Bolivia’s birds and wildlife by empowering local people to be the change. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Bolivia’s communities struggle with a weak economy that often leads them to adopt livelihoods that are less than conservation-friendly and negatively impact wildlife species including the blue-throated macaw. Armonia works closely with these poverty-stricken communities to establish solutions that not only protect the birds but provide conservation-centered alternative incomes.

Believed to be extinct until 1992, blue-throated macaws are now found solely in the Beni savanna ecosystem of northern Bolivia, and it is estimated that only about 400 of these critically endangered birds remain in the wild. Over the years, blue-throated macaw populations have suffered from the illegal pet trade, as well as loss of vital habitat to cattle ranching and logging. In 2008, Asociación Armonia established Barba Azul Nature Reserve in northern Bolivia, creating the first-ever fully protected reserve for blue-throated macaws. This reserve covers more than 27,000 acres of critically endangered Beni savanna ecosystem that is not only vital for macaws, but also for many other species of birds and mammals. This past year, Armonia was able to expand this protection into what has been determined as the most important breeding grounds for blue-throated macaw by creating the Laney-Rickman Reserve, bringing the total of protected lands to 28,862 acres. Unfortunately, much of this land has been impacted for the past 150 years by intensive cattle ranching, ultimately causing the loss of old-growth palm stands used by macaws for foraging and nesting.

In response to this loss, Asociación Armonia began a nest box program that provides artificial nesting cavities within suitable blue-throated macaw breeding sites. This program has seen huge success since being implemented, with 76 chicks fledging from artificial nest cavities in the past 12 years, and the first pair of these grown fledglings coming back to nest in 2017. Armonia is also working closely with local communities on a sustainable cattle farming initiative that aims to create a base model for ecologically friendly ranching practices that can then be taught to cattle ranchers across the country in hopes of preventing further ecological damage.

During this year’s Quarter’s for Conservation, your support allows Asociación Armonia to continue their amazing work saving the blue-throated macaw from extinction by providing resources for their conservation projects and educational programs throughout Bolivia. If you would like to learn more about Asociación Armonia’s Blue-throated Macaw Program, and their many other conservation programs, please visit their website: http://armoniabolivia.org/.

Photo credit: Daniel Alarcon (Asociación Armonia Flickr)

Katherine Biddle
Keeper I, Birds and Quarters for Conservation Champion, Asociación Armonia

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