Trip report, Bolivia, Sept. 2018

Travels in Bolivia  - Anne Lambert

In September we visited reserves in Bolivia run by our field partner Associación Armonía.  ICFC supported land acquisition for two reserves that protect the Critically Endangered blue-throated macaw; and at one of these – Barba Azul reserve in the Beni Savanna – we’ve supported reserve management since 2010.  Along with Tom and me on this visit were two friends who are also supporters of ICFC, Roy Smith and Winnie Poon.  Our partners at Armonia were most welcoming (thanks especially to Bennett Hennessey) and our week together offered ample opportunity to discuss all aspects of Armonia’s reserves and future plans.

Reserva Barba Azul is a remote and fantastic place that is getting still better as the savanna and cerrado ecosystems mature following the cessation of cattle grazing and range burning.  Seasonally inundated long-grass and short-grass savanna give way to scattered palm forest islands, and rivers and marshlands provide a home or migration stopover for diverse waterbirds, black and spectacled caiman, fish, and formerly river otter (which they hope to bring back).

A portion of the reserve is used for both conservation and sustainable cattle ranching.  Ongoing research will refine our knowledge of the best techniques for managing cattle in this ecosystem.  We can say already that rotation of grazing should be done in place of burning the savanna.  Revenue from both cattle ranching and ecotourism help support the reserve.

The reserve is teeming with birds. Our group collectively had 162 species (some just heard) over our 4-day stay.  Mammals are also relatively easy to see.  We saw marsh deer (a beautiful animal!), pampas deer, capybara, agouti, black howler monkey, coati, yellow armadillo and giant anteater.  We missed maned wolf (despite recent sightings) and puma but found puma tracks and scat.

The Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve was created this year when Armonia had the opportunity to purchase Esperancita ranch with funds from ICFC and several other groups. The 680-hectare property is the site of Armonia’s successful nest box program for the blue-throated macaw.  An education centre will allow school groups and Bolivians to see and learn about this rare endemic species.  To cover the long-term management cost of the reserve, Armonía and American Bird Conservancy have established the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Fund, for which a matching campaign ends in December.

Roy and Winnie went on to visit Armonia’s Red-fronted Macaw Reserve, where the endangered red-fronted macaw nests on spectacular cliffs of the Andean valley.  Local Quechua indigenous communities run the reserve and ecolodge and also benefit from bee-keeping and papaya cultivation industries fostered by Armonia.

The visit enhanced our view of the conservation value of these reserves and Armonia’s wonderful work.

See Armonía wonderful flickr page for some wonderful images.  My own habitat shots are on my flickr account.  Shown below are a pair of blue-throated macaws atop a nest box at Laney Rickman reserve, and a firebreak at Barba Azul reserve, with station master Miguel Barbosa,  The top-left image is of Barba Azul reserve from the air.

Blue-throated macaws atop nest box at Laney Rickman reserve

Fire break at Barba Azul reserve, station master Miguel Barbosa

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