The Blue Macaw Project began in 1990, with field support from the Fazenda Nhumirim of the Pantanal Center of Agriculture and Livestock, CPAP-Embrapa, in the Nhecolândia Pantanal sub-region, with resources from the WWF-US and later, an open Jeep supplied by Toyota.
During the initial field studies, Neiva worked in collaboration with biologist Lee Harper.
The study of the reproductive biology of the hyacinth macaw became the focus of Neiva Guedes’ master’s degree dissertation at ESALQ/USP under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Álvaro Fernando de Almeida.
In October 1993, Neiva Guedes completed her master’s degree and in March 1994, she entered CESUP – the Campo Grande Center for Superior Education, currently UNIDERP – University for the Development of the State and the Pantanal Region, which became responsible for the execution of the Project through Neiva Guedes.
In 1993 and 1994, Neiva received a scholarship and funding from the Fundação O Boticário/Mac Arthur Foundation that, together with resources from CECITEC (currently FUNDECT) received with support from SODEPAN (1993-1995), helped to maintain the Project.
During the period from 1996 to 1999, most of the project expenses were covered by Elly de Vries and Richard Welch of Los Angeles-USA, a couple who had learned about the project in 1995.
When they returned to the United States, they created the Hyacinth Macaw Fund, transferring resources through the California Community Foundation.
The fund was deactivated in 1999, when the couple separated.
In October 1998, the 1st Field Station at the Caiman Ecological Refuge, donated by Roberto Klabin, was inaugurated. With this base, the Project was able to hire a research assistant to work full-time in the field.
At the end of 1999, the WWF-Brazil began to sponsor the research and ended up becoming an important Project partner until June 2005, through the Pantanal Forever Program (Programa Pantanal para Sempre). During the breeding season, a field biologist was hired for six months. In June 2001, Toyota provided two new vehicles. In 2002, another research assistant and/or academic scholarship assistant was absorbed by the Project.
From 2000 to 2003, the project received support from the Fundação Manoel de Barros to manage the funds raised by Neiva Guedes. In addition to the WWF, the Project received sponsorship from Vanzin Escapamentos and Brasil Telecom.
At the end of 2003, the Instituto Arara Azul was founded and, starting in 2004, she managed the Project resources provided by the WWF, Ecotrópica Alemã, Vanzin, Brasil Telecom, Roberto Klabin, Burger Zoo, BR Tintas, and Criadouro Asas do Brasil. The field team took on a biologist and interns to work all year round. The Project gained national and international recognition. In May 2004, Neiva Guedes received the Golden Ark Medal from Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and also met with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace.
In September 2004, the Visitor Center at the Project station in the Caiman Ecological Refuge was renovated and reopened using funding from WWF Brazil. In 2005, Toyota traded the two vehicles for newer models, and the Project team was made up of a field biologist, a research assistant, and a publicist. A book was launched at the end of the year: Araras Azuis by Luciano Candisani and Sérgio Túlio, published by Editora DBA.
In 2006, the Institute received a tourism fellow from the Fundação O Boticário Trainee Program. Toyota do Brasil offered support and funding for the Blue Macaw Project, and promoted several events to publicize the Project in other Brazilian states. The Project was invited by Toyota to travel from the Pantanal to participate in fairs, exhibitions, and events in São Paulo. Two special time-speed-distance test rallies were conducted by Toyota Hilux Expeditions – Blue Macaw Project to promote the Project to other audiences. Lectures were given in Brazil. The UNIDERP Project Visitor Center was inaugurated at the Pousada Araraúna in the Aquidauana Pantanal and a laboratory was built during the renovation of the Caiman E. R. Visitor Center in the Miranda Pantanal. At the end of 2006, the hyacinth macaw was chosen, along with seven other endangered species around the world (such as the Bengal tiger in Nepal, the panda bear in China, the polar bear in Canada, the elephant in India, the gorilla in Ruanda, and the hawksbill sea turtle in Costa Rica), to be the subjects of a documentary produced by Endemol for ITV in London.
From the beginning
The Project has partnered with the USP Avian Molecular Genetics Laboratory, coordinated by Dr. Anita Wanjtal and Dr. Cristina Yumi Miyaki, who carry out sexing and DNA analysis of the birds. This work that has led to several master’s degrees and doctoral theses, as well as the publication of numerous scientific articles.
The Project has sought to involve ranchers and farmers of the Pantanal. Field visits and interviews conducted by biologist Elisa Mense have shown that radio is the primary means of communication in the region, so educational messages were included in the radio program with the highest audience in the Pantanal. The local population went on to become a key partner in the Arara Azul Project, and one of the main reasons for the success of the Project and the conservation of the macaws for the protection of the biodiversity of the Pantanal.
Since the start of the project, hundreds of lectures have been given, as well as visits and meetings with the Pantanal community. In 1993, workshops in singing, dancing, and art began to be offered to the children of the region at Caiman, to promote the local culture and create alternative forms of income. Many studies and scientific articles were published in magazines, and there was a good deal of national and international media attention in broadcasts for the general public.
In 1987, the hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) population was estimated at 2,500 individuals in the wild, with only 1500 recorded for the whole of the Pantanal. It became an endangered species due to trafficking, the destruction of the environment, and the collection of feathers by the Indians. There were reports of sightings in the wild, but little information about the biology and history of the life of the species.
– 1990-1992 – Registration, marking, and monitoring of the natural hyacinth macaw nests in the Pantanal; collecting and publishing the first data about the reproductive biology of the species in the wild. Seeking the involvement of Pantanal residents in the conservation of the species.
– 1993 – Completion of master’s degree with 94 nests registered on 11 ranches in the Nhecolândia Pantanal. Analysis of the basic information about hyacinth macaw reproduction. Characterization of the environment and identification of the main problems affecting the population.
– 1994-1996 – Expansion of activities to 21 ranches in the Nhecolândia, Abobral, Miranda, and Nabileque Pantanals. Tests begin with artificial nest models, materials, and sizes. Around 193 nests are marked.
– 1997-1998 – Installation of 105 artificial nests. There is a total of 298 registered nests, 194 of which were being monitored. With the implementation of the 1st Field Station at Caiman towards the end of 1998, monitoring and management tasks begin to be concentrated in the Miranda region.
– 1999-2000 – Start of studies at the UNIDERP Station, on the Fazenda Santa Emília ranch in the Aquidauana Pantanal – Rio Negro. First management activities of natural nests. About 70 nests are recovered, 26 additional artificial nests are installed, and 53 natural nests are registered. With just over 400 nests registered, 310 (74%) are being monitored. Bird health studies with UNIDERP veterinarians. Development of lectures and field activities for Caiman guests. Implementation of a GIS data base in partnership with a UNIDERP researcher.
In 2000, the population of hyacinth macaws in the Pantanal was estimated at 3000 individuals.
– 2001-2003 – A total of 546 registered nests: 346 natural and 198 artificial. The Project now involves 45 ranches in 5 Pantanal sub-regions. The most intensely monitored nests are the approximately 320 located nearest to the two base stations: Caiman Ecological Reserve and Pousada Araraúna.
The first experiments in egg and chick management are conducted with the authorization of the “Committee for the Conservation and Management of the Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)”, coordinated by IBAMA. Several eggs are incubated successfully in the laboratory, and the chicks are later returned to their nests or transferred to others. For the first time, it is possible to monitor the behavior of the couple, eggs, and chicks in the wild by installing a micro-camera inside the nest. New health studies of adults and chicks, resulting in unprecedented reports about birds in the wild.
– 2004-2005 – The Project is a success in nest, egg, and chick management. The population has both grown and expanded. Several other studies begin to emerge in the interior of Brazil. The species is investigated by a Bolivian biologist trained by the Project. Antonio dos Santos Jr., a biologist trained on the Project, begins the first fieldwork focused on the Panama tree (Sterculia apetala), a species found in the Pantanal that is critical to macaw reproduction.
Several papers are published as book chapters, conference material, and articles for the general public.
– 2006-2007 – Fieldwork continues with monitoring and nest management, eggs, and chicks. Project results are presented at forums in France, Brazil, and the United States, and at the Neotropical Ornithology Conference in Venezuela. Factors that impact reproductive success in the Pantanal (deforestation, burning, tourism) are analyzed by Neiva Guedes in her doctoral thesis.
At the end of 2005, the hyacinth macaw population in the Pantanal is estimated at 5,000 individuals, having not only increased, but also expanded to other regions where it had decreased or even been annihilated. There is practically no more trafficking of hyacinth macaws in the South Pantanal and birds seized in the State of MS are usually being transported from other regions of Brazil. Research results have been widely disseminated. Dozens of students, biologists, veterinarians, and zootechnicians have been trained. Land owners have been encouraged to create RPPNs – Private Nature Heritage Reserve – and have begun to replant Panama tree.
By the end of 2006, the Blue Macaw Project has registered a total of 604 nests: 386 natural and 218 artificial. The Project now involves 57 ranches in 5 Pantanal sub-regions. The most intensely monitored nests are the approximately 320 located nearest to the two base stations: Caiman and Pousada Araraúna.
Currently, hyacinth macaws are found in various cities in Mato Grosso do Sul, such as Aquidauana, Miranda, Rio Negro, and Terenos, which is 80 km from Campo Grande, the state capital, where blue-and-yellow macaws (Ara araraúna) and Scarlet macaws (Ara chloroptera) have taken up residence.