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Cover Photo: Welcome ceremony for Marcelo Tognelli organized by the Municipality of Apolo. Cesar Bascopé Espinoza

Marcelo Tognelli, International Project Officer at American Bird Conservancy and partner of Armonia, visited in July multiple bird conservation projects in Bolivia, to experience firsthand Armonía’s bird conservation efforts. Marcelo visited various communities in Apolo (Palkachupa Cotinga Program), the municipal nursery of Tiquipaya in Cochabamba (Polylepis Restoration Program), the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve (Red-fronted Macaw Program), and finally the Barba Azul Nature Reserve (Blue-throated Macaw Program).

“It makes a significant difference to meet our local collaborators in person and visit project sites, interacting with the people in the communities they’re working with. Now, I not only have a better understanding of the projects, but it also helps me better grasp the complexities involved in working with different stakeholders, areas, and their accessibility,” Tognelli wrote in a letter to Armonia.

Apolo Municipality in La Paz: United for the Conservation of the Palkachupa Cotinga

Marcelo began his journey in Apolo together with Tjalle Boorsma (Armonía’s Conservation program Director) and Sandra Paredes (Palkachupa Cotinga Coordinator). The mayor of the Apolo municipality, Jully Jiménez Delboy, welcomed them in a beautiful and very colorful event attended by many representatives of the Leco indigenous communities, farmers authorities, the Madidi National Park authorities & rangers, the Coffee Producers Association (APCA), the Honey Producers Association (Aspromiel), Apolo Municipal Council members, and many other community stakeholders from Apolo.

Over the following four days, they visited the communities of Aten, Muiri, Chirimayu, Santa Cruz del Valle Ameno, and Pata. During these community visits, in addition to birdwatching and having the opportunity see and photograph the spectacular Palkachupa Cotinga (Phibalura boliviana), they discussed strategic conservation and sustainable development priorities for the future with the many authorities of the different communities. These priorities included how we can collaboratively support sustainable production systems (beekeeping, coffee production, ecofriendly cattle management, bird tourism), prevention of forest fires, and environmental education.

Tunari National Park in Cochabamba: Reforesting Native Forests and Renewing Hope for Threatened Birds

After a long and boisterous trip from Apolo to Cochabamba, Marcelo visited the municipal nursery in Tiquipaya where Omar Oporto (Program Coordinator Tunari National Park) explained in dept the process of producing native trees and all the Polylepis restoration and reforestation activities Armonia is execution along the southern slopes of the Tunari National Park. Armonía’s Polylepis restoration program helps restore habitat for the endemic and Endangered Cochabamba Mountain Finch (Poospiza garleppi) among many other species (187) that are affected by habitat loss. Among these species are the Giant Conebill (Conirostrum binghami), a bird found exclusively in Polylepis forests

Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve: Community Birdwatching to Promote Red-fronted Macaw Conservation

Subsequently, Marcelo traveled together with Tjalle and Romeo Rojas (Red-fronted Macaw Project Coordinator) to the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve. At the reserve, they were warmly welcomed by large numbers of Red-fronted Macaws and a pair that succus fully raised three chicks. After witnessing this splendor they were joined by Guido Saldana (Armonia long-term Red-fronted Macaw program Coordinator) and by Filemon and Simon who form part of the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve Administration Committee, representing three Quechua communities: San Carlos, Perereta, and Amaya. Simon and Filemon explained the long and beautiful history of moving from being only a farmer, towards the guardians of the Red-fronted Macaw.

Field visits are important to plan for future conservation strategies and Marcelo cherished the companionship of the community members to better understand to needs to protect threatened species. They presented him with a textile artwork portraying the Red-fronted Macaw as a gift.

Photo: Observing recently fledged Red-fronted Macaw chicks at the red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve. Romeo Rojas, Armonía.

Barba Azul Nature Reserve: A Biodiversity Treasure

Marcelo’s final destination was the Barba Azul Nature Reserve located in the in the heart of the Beni savannas and home to the largest population of the Critically Endangered and endemic Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis). After an intensive trip visiting so many places, the tranquility and comfort to stay in Barba Azul was very welcomed. Over the course of four days Marcelo was able to talk to Luz Mercado (Blue-throated Macaw Coordinator), Edson Lopez (Conservation Ranching Coordinator) and our reserve park rangers to understand the project, observe the sites where Armonia conducts fire management, participated in Blue-throated Macaw monitoring, discussed scientific research ideas, and witnessed firsthand Armonía’s sustainable ranching program in Barba Azul East.

With over more than 340 bird species in Barba Azul, apart from understanding the program, Marcelo was happy to observe many species of wildlife Barba Azul has to offer.

Photo: Marcelo enjoying a beautiful sunset in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve. Luz Mercado.

Armonia, all the staff, and all the communities who were visited were delighted by your visit and we are grateful to American Bird Conservancy for their steadfast support towards all these bird conservation programs in Bolivia. We look forward to having you over again very soon.

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