Breed and Release Rare Macaws Back into their Endemic Habitat in Costa Rica

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Become a wildlife conservation volunteer in Costa Rica and help to breed and release critically endangered Scarlet and Great Green Macaws back into the wild. Opportunities available to work at the breeding centre for 2 to 12 weeks and at two release sites throughout the country for 1 up to 6 months, all year round.   We have places for conservation volunteers all throughout 2014 available.

Individuals, groups and students all welcome.

Costs for food (3 meals a day), lodging in a homestay within the local community, programme materials and training starts from £450

Great Green Macaws at the Breeding Centre ready to move to the Release site Feeding time for the Macaws Volunteers at the Macaw breeding centre Scarlet Macaw and chick at the Breeding centre Scarlet Macaws preen each other Macaw perched up high in Costa Rica Great Green Macaws Macaw looks at the camera Volunteer cleaning out a Macaw cage at the breeding centre Volunteer working at the Breeding centre Macaws arriving from the Breeding centre to the Release site Macaw resting in the treetops Macaw at the release site Volunteer house at the Release site in Punta Islita Punta Islita Release site, Costa Rica Stunning beach next to the Punta Islita Release Site Macaws flying free after being released Endangered Macaws Flying free Macaw spreads its wings Macaws fly at dusk

The Project

Macaws perched at the breeding centreThis programme was originally started 30 years ago to help conserve the two native macaw species of Costa Rica, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus). They started by taking in Macaws rescued from poachers by the government, as well as unwanted pets, and eventually set up a breeding programme to begin releasing the offspring of these Scarlet and Great Green Macaws back into the wild.

The release programme has been very successful. Scarlet Macaws have been released since 2002, with a success rate of over 80%. Even better, the released Scarlet Macaws have now been breeding on their own, without any human interference since 2008.

In 2009 the project was expanded, and now there are three active release sites, two for Scarlet Macaws and the first Great Green Macaw release site worldwide.

We are in need of wildlife conservation volunteers to join projects in both the breeding centre and at the release sites, to help conserve and study these rare species, which were on the verge of extinction.

Click here for information on Volunteering at the Breeding Centre
Click here for information on Volunteering at one of the Release Sites

Volunteer collecting fruit for the macawsConservation volunteering at the Breeding Centre

The breeding centre is located in Punta Islita in the Guanacaste province. The breeding centre's main focus is to breed and raise macaws for release. The Macaws on site are of varying ages including breeding adults, juveniles waiting for release, and chicks. They require an intensive schedule of work to keep each and every Macaw at the centre healthy and happy. However you will be greatly rewarded for your hard work by getting the opportunity to learn about Macaws and their conservation, and the experience of doing and seeing things only a few other people on the planet have.

WIldlife conservation volunteers will be working alongside the team of international professionals and ‘ticos’ (Costa Ricans who work on the project). They will use their specific skills to enrich the lives of the Macaws, and also help and teach you about Macaw care and conservation along the way. There are up to 5 conservation volunteer places available at the breeding centre and a minimum commitment of 2 weeks is required.

Volunteer tasks include

  • Preparing food for and feeding the birds
  • Cleaning, scrubbing, sweeping, raking the aviaries, grounds and food preparation areas
  • General aviary maintenance and husbandry
  • Daily rounds of observing the birds, ensuring health and wellbeing
  • Maintenance of aviaries, perches, feeding stations
  • Cutting browse and re-perching
  • General centre and kitchen maintenance
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Making toys for the birds from an assortment of materials

Furthermore, if you have an interest in gardening or maintenance there is always work to be carried out on the finca.

There is also an established education programme at the centre, that aims to engage the project with local schools, churches and the community. The main tasks include providing an 'education pack' to be handed out to teachers for children, and to present educational talks in Spanish.

Conservation volunteering at the Release Sites

You will be working at one of two release sites; Manzanillo and Punta Islita. All release sites are situated within the tropical jungle, and walking distance to the beach (see photo left of beach not far from release site.) You will be working with expert biologists in the field to conduct studies of the Macaws in the region. As a volunteer, your studies of the Macaws will be focused in five key areas; Investigating survival rates; Dispersal and adaption to the local area; Social interaction and behaviour; Nesting behaviour and Foraging.Volunteer observing macaws in the wild

The release site project is suitable for qualified biologists and/or studying students, as well as enthusiastic birders, ornithologists, zoo keepers, or conservation workers. There are only 2 places available per release site and a minimum commitment of 1 month is required. You could be working long hours in sometimes uncomfortable and arduous situations and maybe on your own.

Typical volunteer tasks include

  • Tracking Macaws in the surrounding area and beyond
  • Monitoring and observing the behaviour and feeding schedule of released Macaws
  • Observing Macaw social behaviour and interactions
  • Recording data and assisting the Biologists
  • Helping with the daily afternoon sunflower seed feed at the release site
  • Observing the roosting behaviour of the released Macaws
  • Visiting schools and the local community, including the native indigenous population, to educate the people about the project and Macaw conservation
  • Identifying possible nesting sites
  • Monitoring Macaw nests during their development, laying, incubation, chick rearing, and fledging.

You will also participate in activities relating to the release of Macaws into the wild, where relevant.


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Dates & Costs

Breeding Centre:

Macaw conservation education1st to 15th August
15th to 31st August
1st to 15th September
15th to 30th September
1st to 15th October
15th to 31st October
1st to 15th November
15th to 30th November
1st to 15th December
15th to 31st December

1st to 15th January 2015
15th to 31st January 2015
1st to 15th February 2015
15th to 28th February 2015
1st to 15th March 2015
15th to 31st March 2015
1st to 15th April 2015
15th to 30th April 2015
1st to 15th May 2015
15th to 31st May 2015
1st to 15th June 2015
15th to 30th June 2015


Costs
The cost for a 2 week stay at the breeding centre is £450, 3 weeks is £550, 4 weeks is £660, 6 weeks is £800 and 8 weeks is £1050. This covers airport pickup & overnight stay in a guest house, all on-site accommodation costs (including three meals per day and laundry), as well as donation to the breeding centre to cover food and care for all of the Macaws, and project backup and training. Please email for prices of other durations. Airfare and transportation by bus to the breeding centre (from San Jose), travel/medical insurance and personal expenses are not included in the cost. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project.

Release Site:

Macaw perched in the treetops1st to 31st August
1st to 30th September
1st to 31st October
1st to 30th November
1st to 31st December

1st to 31st January 2015
1st to 28th February 2015
1st to 31st March 2015
1st to 30th April 2015
1st to 31st May 2015
1st to 30th June 2015

Costs
The cost for 1 months is £470, and 2 months is £645, which covers your accommodation and a donation for working 'on site' , as well as training and project backup. You will need to cover your own food costs when volunteering at a release site. This varies, an approximate budget is around $10-15 per day, depending on how much you eat. Please email for prices of other durations. Airfare and transportation by bus to the release sites from San Jose, travel/medical insurance and personal expenses are not included in the cost. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project.

Please note that for both projects, arrival dates can be flexible. For any questions about dates please email aaron@workingabroad.com

Food, Lodging, Requirements & Travel

Breeding Centre

Accommodation info at Breeding centreVolunteer at a local homestay in Costa Rica

Conservation volunteers are lodged onsite at the breeding centre in Punta Islita. At the accommodation, you will receive three meals per day and laundry. Internet is also available for use in the house for a small extra fee. You may be sharing a room if there are lots of volunteers.

Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers should be aged 18+, have an interest in biology, conservation or a related field, and be fluent in either English or Spanish (the Project Manager is fluent in English and Spanish). You should have a positive attitude and a good team spirit, with a willingness to communicate with the local community. All training is provided upon arrival, so no previous experience is required.

How to get there?

Please email aaron@workingabroad.com for more specifics. International flights to San José from Europe are usually either with American Airlines via Miami or with Iberia via Spain. Please remember not to look for San Jose in California, it is San José International Airport (Juan Santamaria) - code SJO. Upon arriving in SJO airport, you will be picked up by local staff and taken to a guest house in San Jose to stay for one night (meals provided). Then the next morning you will be picked up again and taken to the bus to transfer to the breeding centre in Punta Islita. You will need to cover your own transport costs to reach the breeding centre from San Jose, but your one night stay in San Jose and airport pickup is included. Bus networks around Costa Rica are reliable and cheap. We can provide detailed advice on this.

Release SiteMacaw observation tent at the release site

Accommodation info at the Release sites

Accommodations and food are basic. However, the locations are stunning and the birds are spectacular in their natural environment. Volunteers will live at the project release site and you will need to be buy and prepare your own food.

Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers should be aged 18+ and be either qualified biologists and/or studying students. If no specific biology qualifications, we are looking for enthusiastic birders, ornithologists, zoo keepers, or conservation workers, with a strong interest in biology, conservation or a related field. You need to be fluent in either English or Spanish (the Project Managers are fluent in English and Spanish) You should have a positive attitude and willingness to communicate with the local community. You need to be able to withstand a hot, humid climate, and be comfortable living with basic facilities.

How to get there?

Please email aaron@workingabroad.com for more specifics. International flights to San José from Europe are usually either with American Airlines via Miami or with Iberia via Spain. Please remember not to look for San Jose in California, it is San José International Airport (Juan Santamaria) - code SJO. Upon arriving in SJO airport, you will be picked up by local staff and taken to a guest house in San Joseto stay for one night (meals provided). Then the next morning you will be picked up again and taken to the bus to transfer to your release site. You will need to cover your own transport costs to reach the release sites from San Jose, but your one night stay in San Jose and airport pickup is included. Bus networks around Costa Rica are reliable and cheap. We can provide detailed advice on this.

Interactive Map & Video

Below is an interactive map showing key locations for the project:



 

Please view this mini-film below taken at one of the Release sites in Punta Islita.

 

Volunteer Testimonials

Volunteer holding a scarlet macawOur trip to volunteer in Costa Rica was inspired by two passions: coffee and parrots. If you're fanatical about parrots, or wildlife conservation in general, then this project is for you.

There are only a few hundred great green macaws in the wild, but at the project we were lucky enough to see 20 who were almost ready for release, as well as others who were part of the breeding program, and many scarlet macaws. The birds were quite curious about us, and many came to the front of their aviaries to see us. We also got to see some macaw chicks up close, and to meet the injured scarlet macaw who is in training to become the avian ambassador to visitors.

There are other places where you can see a great green macaw, but nowhere else will you see so many — or have the chance to donate and contribute so directly to their conservation.

S. Meta from Austin, Texas

Volunteer smiling with some of the macawsWorking with Great Green Macaws and Scarlet Macaws remains one the greatest experiences I have ever had in my life. The work done at the project is primordial to ensure the survival of these two species!  It is so rewarding to see the chicks growing up in front of your eyes, to take care of them every day and then to see them flying free in nature. Taking part at this project as a volunteer involves not only having a good time in Costa Rica but it is participating to something bigger than yourself, it means trying to save wonderful animals from extinction.

ex-Volunteer Arnaud Goessens

How to Join

To secure a placement volunteering in Costa Rica with Macaws, please complete and submit the form with your deposit of £150. If for some reason, your application is declined, we will reimburse this deposit fully. However for those who are accepted, you will be required to pay the final balance 1 month before arrival. Once we have confirmed your place, you will receive an information package on the programme background and scientific objectives, your role as a volunteer, the work you will do, suggested items to bring, how to travel there etc. Upon arrival at the project, all volunteers are asked to sign a waiver/release of liability form.

 

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