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Senderos de aviturismo

Cover photo: Leaders of the Julo Grande community in the Toro Toro municipality inaugurate a sculpture resembling the Red-fronted Macaw.

In November 2023, new tourist routes were inaugurated in the communities of Matanseria, and Julo Grande, both within the municipality of Toro Toro (Potosí). The aim is to provide visitors with the opportunity to observe the Red-fronted Macaw (Ara rubrogenys) and other inter-Andean Dry Valley specialized bird species. Local guides and park rangers from Toro Toro underwent training in both theoretical and practical aspects of birdwatching.

“Our goal is for this work is to directly benefit the local communities, as they are the main actors who will receive the income generated by showcasing this species, which is only found in the inter-Andean Dry Valleys of Bolivia and unfortunately Critically Endangered,” stated Guido Saldaña, Coordinator of the Red-fronted Macaw Program at Armonía.

Guido Saldaña Toro Toro

Photo: Guido Saldaña, Coordinator of the Red-fronted Macaw Program at Armonía, presents on the biology and environmental requirements of the Red-fronted Macaw. 

The event was organized by Asociación Armonía in collaboration with the of Toro Toro Municipality, Toro Toro National Park, and active engagement from the local communities. This initiative is part of the project “Reducing Poverty and Illegal Trade utilizing Bolivia’s Charismatic Red-fronted Macaw,” funded by the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund of the United Kingdom (IWT).

On the first day, Alex Giménez, Tourism Coordinator at Armonía, shared successful birdwatching experiences from the Barba Azul Nature Reserve (Beni Department) and the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve (Omereque Cochabamba). “Exploring both reserves in the northern and southern regions of Bolivia contributes to the preservation of nature and the empowerment of local communities. A paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers,” Giménez noted.

This initiative aligns with the Municipal Law for the Promotion and Advancement of Tourism in the municipality of Toro Toro. The objective is to endorse tourism that fosters local development and brings tangible benefits to communities, as highlighted by Maira Rojas, tourism and culture technician at the Toro Toro Municipality. 

Maira Rojas Toro Toro

Photo: Maira Rojas, official from the Toro Toro Municipality, explains the objectives of the Municipal Law for the Promotion and Advancement of Tourism

As the first day concluded, attendees made their way to the entrance of the Bolivian “Grand Canyon” Viewpoint, where an informative sign dedicated to the Red-fronted Macaw was officially unveiled.  This species, endemic to Bolivia and critically endangered, nests in the canyon walls, making it a strategic location.

Gran Cañon Toro Toro

Photo: Environmental education sign was revealed at the Bolivian “Grand Canyon” viewpoint to provide information about the Red-fronted Macaw. 

On the second day, two trails were inaugurated, one of which includes a viewpoint with a panoramic view of the area and a bird observatory designed as a refuge to avoid disturbing the birds. Additionally, a sculpture in the shape of the Red-fronted Macaw was unveiled in the Julo Grande community, measuring 2.80 meters in length and 1.50 meters in height.

“The opportunity was taken to train local guides and park rangers in identifying birds flying in  the Toro Toro skies. Considering that birdwatching is a new ecotourism activity in the area, we have seen the need for training, especially for local guides and community residents. We have emphasized to the local communities that this alternative of community birdwatching demands constant commitment to continue growing and becoming an important site for birdwatchers,” explained Saldaña.

Avistamiento de aves Toro Toro

Photo: Local guides and park rangers undergo training in bird identification.

Text and photos: Margarita Palacios, Armonía.

More information:

In 2021, Armonía conducted a Red-fronted Macaw population census in which they found approximately 160 nests throughout the species distribution. This Bolivian endemic parrot is only found at four river basins in inter-Andean Dry Valleys in the heart of Bolivia: Caine, Mizque, Río Grande, and Pilcomayo. It is estimated that the population consists of approximately 1,200 individuals.

Asociación Armonía has been working on Red-fronted Macaw conservation for over 15 years. One of the success stories was the creation of a bird observation lodge located at the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve (Cochabamba), where the local communities of San Carlos, Perereta, and Amaya manage tourism. The reserve protects the world’s most important Red-fronted Macaw breeding cliff. The revenue generated from tourism is divided among the three communities and contributes to the sustainability and protection of the area.

Photo: Two Red-fronted Macaws on a tree in the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve. Ernst Udo Drawert

Photo: Two Red-fronted Macaws on a tree in the Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve. Ernst Udo Drawert.

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