Community Bird-Based Tourism Key to Sustainability at Red-fronted Macaw Reserve

Community bird-based tourism has become relevant for the sustainability of the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve. While offering an opportunity where the tourist is supporting a good cause, the communities involved with the Reserve are becoming more conscientious protectors of the Red-fronted Macaw while benefiting from a diversified, more stable economy and improved quality of life. 2019 birding tourism brought in US$7033 of profit to improve conditions in the communities of Amaya, Perereta, and San Carlos, in addition to providing for administration and maintenance of the lodge.

The Reserve accommodates 14 tourists, from birdwatchers to nature lovers who are interested in seeing one of the most important nesting sites for the Red-Fronted Macaw, endemic to Bolivia and listed as Critically Endangered. Since 2006, three communities have managed the Reserve through an Administrative Committee in charge of prioritizing and overseeing use of resources. The Reserve provides employment for at least three community members each time a tourist group visits, through food, lodging, and guiding services. Additionally, occasional infrastructure maintenance and improvements are necessary, and these jobs depend on labor from community members. All of these jobs provide additional direct income for the families of each employed community member. The diversity of tourism-related jobs gives more economic stability to these families who primarily depend on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods.

Tourism profits are divided into four equal parts: one part goes to each of the three communities, and the remaining part is managed by the Administration Committee to maintain the lodge and Reserve, making this community birding tourism endeavor self-sustaining. Each year, the previous year’s tourism income is presented to the community representatives that make up the Administration Committee. The members of the Committee then oversee the use of funds at the community and Reserve levels. This February, Armonia was joined by Wendy Willis, representative of the American Bird Conservancy, one of the main donors for the Red-fronted Macaw Conservation Program, in the presentation of funds.

Through this allocation of funds, all members of the communities benefit from tourism, thereby raising awareness about the importance of caring for the environment and specifically of protecting the Red-fronted Macaw. In the past, the Red-fronted Macaw was considered a crop pest of corn. It was also lucrative for the illegal pet trade. Now, due to training sessions and these community economic incentives from tourism, the communities are committed to protecting the species.

The funds from 2019’s tourism income are tentatively slated to be used to support the schools in San Carlos and Amaya, and to make repairs to the church building in Perereta. In the past, the 100+ families of the three communities have invested in health, education, irrigation, and improvements in their water systems.

The clear advances in community participation for the conservation of the Red-fronted Macaw has come through much diligent effort in many areas, made possible by the valuable support of donors like American Bird Conservancy, BioParc, Conservation Des Espèces Et Des Populations Animales (CEPA), Douglas Wilson, March Conservation Fund, the Naomi Lupka Foundation managed by the Olewine family, Naturefund, Newquay Zoo, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Twyncross, Vogelpark – ZGAP, and WWF Italy. In 2020, efforts to increase community involvement and commitment will continue, with further training in tourism services in order to improve attention to visitors at the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve and actively involve additional families.

Conservation of the Red-fronted Macaw is now a priority in the communities of Amaya, Perereta, and San Carlos; with conservation, everyone wins.

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