The mission of Rainforest Biodiversity Group (formerly Friends of the Great Green Macaw) is to protect biological diversity, including migratory bird species, through the protection of habitat for the Great Green Macaw and the creation of local conservation initiatives.
Migratory bird species [link to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service web page] that breed in North America and winter in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, are known as neo-tropical migrants. There are more than 200 species of Neotropical migrants, and many of these species populations are in decline. Migrants cover long distances and depend on stopover sites to rest and re-fuel during their migration south and north. As the human population grows, less and less stopover habitat is available. Other factors play a role in the mortality of migrating birds such as collisions with glass-windowed buildings; interference with lights from cell phone towers; predation by house cats; bioaccumulation of pesticides, etc. Illegal logging and agricultural expansion continues to eradicate remaining bird habitat in the tropics where these migrants spend their winter.
The Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), or Lapa Verde as it is called in Spanish, is a Central American parrot that has also suffered due to loss of habitat. The Great Green Macaw is internationally endangered and red listed by CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). It is also identified as a species “most in need of protection” by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation).
The population of the Great Green Macaw is in great danger of becoming extinct in Costa Rica. Here it is estimated that less than 200 individual birds remain, with less than 30 breeding pairs. The Great Green Macaw is now found in just 10% of its original home range in Costa Rica. The establishment of local and private conservation initiatives and economic alternatives are needed to protect the Great Green Macaw population from extirpation in Costa Rica. Rainforest Biodiversity Group is working in Costa Rica to help establish local and private conservation initiatives. We have made significant progress with the creation of the Costa Rican Bird Route.
The Costa Rican Bird Route is located in the northern/northeastern region of Costa Rica where the Great Green Macaw has become a symbol of conservation. It is a species that communities can rally around for protection of their natural resources and for economic opportunities such as tourism. The Bi-National Macaw Festival has become a venue for such celebration of resources.
Biologically, the Great Green Macaw is used as an indicator species of forest health. Where macaws remain the forest is relatively healthy. By protecting habitat for the Great Green Macaw, habitat will also be protected for thousands of other species of creatures that live in the same habitat.
The Almendro Tree typifies a healthy habitat for the Great Green Macaw. The Almendro, (Dipteryx panamensis) or Mountain Almond, is a tree that produces a large almond nut that is highly preferred by the Great Green Macaw. During years of research the Great Green Macaw Research Project found that the majority of macaw nests are in Almendros, in the large cavities that are created when a branch breaks from the tree. These macaws also get water from the Almendro, in smaller cavities or bromeliads where rainwater collects. In essence, the Almendro is the perfect home, providing food, water and shelter.
These same Almendros have a history of being cut from the forests and taken to sawmills where they are made into boards for patios, decks, floors, and truck beds. The Almendro is a “Tropical Hardwood” and is very resistant to deterioration and termites and is therefore a popular choice in construction materials. Because of the Great Green Macaw's heavy reliance on the Almendro for its survival, the highest constitutional court in Costa RIca declared the tree species protected in 2008, prohibiting any further cutting. However, illegal cutting is a still an issue in the country, especially in areas that are hard to monitor.
Also, in late 2008, former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias granted a concession to Canadian mining company Industrias Infinitos to implement an open pit gold mining project in northern Costa Rica which allowed for the destruction of 191 acres of trees, including many almendros. Once the citizens of Costa Rica and Nicaragua realized what was happening, they protested the project and were effective in getting the project stalled while the court system deliberated over whether Arias broke the law or not. As of November 2010, the project is still stalled and groups continue to make their opposition known to the new president in office, Laura Chinchilla.
In addition to habitat destruction, the nest robbing of young birds for the pet trade and the hunting of the birds for food is still a problem, although considerably less than in the past, and on a smaller scale than in other countries.
The Rainforest Biodiversity Group has been playing a role in various conservation efforts in Costa Rica since being founded in 2000. These efforts include reforestation projects, environmental education, Adopt-a-Nest program, and development of the Costa Rican Bird Route.
Rainforest Biodiversity Group is a fully tax deductible 501c.3 environmental non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Wisconsin.