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Working hand-in-hand with indigenous communities to protect the Critically Endangered Red-fronted Macaw

The Red-fronted Macaw (Ara rubrogenys) is a Critically Endangered species from a small region in the Inter-Andean valleys of Bolivia. The just-over-1000 individuals (according to the National Census conducted March/April 2021) live nowhere else on Earth. The species is threatened by the destruction of native dry forests, persecution by local farmers because they eat crops (maize and peanuts), and poaching to supply the illegal pet trade. 

Protecting a Key Area

The problem of habitat loss has been partially addressed through the creation of the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve. Situated among and administered by the communities of San Carlos, Perereta, and Amaya with support from Armonia, the Reserve protects the largest known breeding colony of Red-fronted Macaws in the world. Community members are actively involved in conservation decisions, analysis of effects of human activities on the Reserve, reforestation and planting of parcels exclusively for macaw foraging, and all other aspects of the Reserve management. 


The Reserve covers 50 hectares (124 acres). The spectacular sheer cliff face that dominates this landscape is the main breeding site of the macaw. The area is full of activity as the macaws are joined by two other endemic species (Bolivian Blackbird and Cliff Parakeet) as well as visiting Andean Condors and Peregrine Falcons. Over 200 bird species have been recorded at the Reserve and many are easily spotted flying back and forth from the cliff face. The native vegetation at the cliff’s base as well as the Mizque River are crucial food sources for wildlife.

Finding balance with human activities

Education is a crucial component of the Red-fronted Macaw program. While the macaw’s survival depends on finding an elusive balance between human and wildlife populations, the first step is awareness that people can make the difference. Agricultural practices in the region have resulted in the Red-fronted Macaw being perceived as a crop pest: clearing of agricultural fields results in loss of native vegetation that is the macaw’s primary food source. With few alternatives, the loss of this native vegetation leads to the macaw’s invasion of crop fields in order to feed on corn and peanuts. Over the years, farmers have relied on removal of macaws to protect their crops. Helping the local people to understand the big picture and seek ways to coexist with the macaw is a necessary step for the survival of this species.

Preventing wildlife trade

The majority of the region’s inhabitants depend on traditional agriculture and poverty levels are desperate in many cases; the indigenous communities in the inter-Andean valleys have often been marginalized by society. When the attractive payments for pet birds are coupled with the dire economic conditions suffered by these communities, it is easy to understand why the beautiful Red-fronted Macaw is at risk. Education, combined with increased economic opportunities, provides a path towards reducing the risk posed by illegal animal trafficking. 


Educational initiatives

We have been working with schools and the communities at large in and around the Reserve with the hopes of instilling pride in the presence of this unique macaw in the region. Educational activities highlighting the importance of preserving native forests for the macaw’s diet have been coupled with reforestation activities and planting of supplemental parcels of peanut specifically for the macaws.

To reach the greater Bolivian population, increased signage related to the macaw has been implemented along the major roadways in the region. A short educational spot about the Red-fronted Macaw’s current situation and a longer video report showing how the communities of San Carlos, Perereta, and Amaya are working towards a human-nature balance are being circulated on social media and news outlets throughout Bolivia.

Economic diversification

Community tourism is proving to be a successful conservation strategy in the Red-fronted Macaw Program. By providing training for local people related to tourism, community members gain knowledge, skills, and confidence to attend to visitors and independently provide tourism services at the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve. 

The generation of income that depends on the presence and well-being of the Red-fronted Macaw helps to shift perspectives and priorities in the local communities, creating a space for species protection to enter into the cultural framework. 

Income from tourism is divided equally among the three communities involved with Reserve administration and is invested directly in community projects related to health and education. By visiting the Reserve, tourists help to save this emblematic macaw and contribute to the well-being of indigenous communities.

We must raise awareness and create behavioral change across Bolivia to ensure a brighter future for the Red-fronted Macaw. By engaging communities to become actively involved in the conservation of their natural heritage, we hope to ensure the long-term protection of Bolivia’s habitats and wildlife.   

Legal protection

Legal protection at the national, departmental, and local level for the Red-fronted Macaw and its habitat is an important piece of the conservation puzzle. Armonia coordinates with the appropriate governing bodies whenever possible. Joint efforts with municipal authorities have produced the following legal protections thus far:

Omereque Municipality Declaration
Saipina Municipality Declaration

Red-fronted Macaw Conservation Program Annual report 2022

Armonia extended in 2022 their Red-fronted Macaw Conservation efforts to new areas, and we are now active in the Torotoro region (Rio Caine population), in El Palmar National Park (Rio Grande population) and the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve (Rio Mizque population). We proudly published the 2022-2032 Red-fronted Macaw Action Plan presenting conservation strategies to prevent its extinction. With 23 active nests in the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve, we are protecting Bolivia’s most important Red-fronted Macaw breeding cliff together with local Quechua communities. After two years of covid, 2022 was highlighted with the highest number of tourists ever in the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve, directly supporting local conservation. We placed 50 nestboxes in El Palmar National Park and monitored 10 nestboxes in the Red -fronted Macaw Reserve. Will 2023 be the year the macaws discover our nestboxes?


Our Supporters are helping to educate about conservation!

We’re happy to share these educational initiatives produced by people and organizations who care deeply about the success of our programs and the future of the Red-fronted Macaw.



Ways to support the Red-fronted Macaw Program

Visit the Reserve

Want to see our efforts to protect the Red-fronted Macaw first-hand? Plan your visit today! 


The Red-fronted Macaw program has achieved many successes, but  continued efforts towards protection of the species and its habitat, education of local communities and the Bolivian people in general, and elimination of the pet trade depend partly on the donations of generous and caring people. If you would like to support the Red-fronted Macaw program, please consider a donation.

We thank our international partners and individual donors for the achievements of Red-fronted Macaw program – we cannot save the species or empower our people without your generous support.

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