Barba Azul Nature Reserve
by Bennett Hennessey

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In July 2008, the Asociacion Armonía/ Loro Parque Fundacion Blue-throated Macaw conservation program through the support of American Bird Conservancy, and World Land Trust-US, created the 8750 acre Barba Azul Nature Reserve (Barba Azul), the first and only protected area for the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw. Barba Azul is the only protected area for the Blue-throated Macaw protecting the most important site for the species in the world. Barba Azul is also the only area within the Beni were you can visit cattle-free, old-growth natural tall-grass savannah. At Barba Azul there are resident populations of tall-grass endangered birds such as Cock-tailed Tyrant, Black-masked Tyrant, Sharp-tailed Tyrant, Long-tailed Reed-finch, and Streamer-tailed Tyrant; over 250 bird species including many of the Beni Endemic Bird Area (see Barba Azul Nature Reserve Bird List). Barba Azul also has many rare mammal species such as Maned Wolf, Giant Anteater, Jaguar, Puma and Marsh Dear.

BANR in BoliviaThe Barba Azul Nature Reserve, the local name for the Blue-throated Macaw, protects the critically important Blue-throated Macaw global population stronghold. Through years of research, the Armonia/Loro Parque Fundacion program in 2007 discovered this last remaining group- a roosting site of over 70 individuals. This was shocking and glorious news for a Critically Endangered bird that before this important discovery was only found in isolated pairs in widely distributed privately owned cattle ranches. A bird almost impossible to see without knowing a specific roosting site or a nesting tree- often far from any road access. Given there are 300 Blue-throated Macaws in an area almost twice the size of Texas, you could search for a month without success.
BANR Marsh

Glasgow university conducted an expedition to the Barba Azul Nature Reserve in August 2009 to collected data on the Ornithological and Mammalian fauna of the reserve whilst also conducting the first Icthyological, Herpetological and Botanical surveys of the area.

They found two hundred and thirty bird species protected on the reserve and confirmed the importance of the reserve as a haven for the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw with daily encounters of multiple groups each containing up to 25 individuals. They mapped the distribution of the Cock-tailed Tyrant and Black-masked Finch (both Vulnerable) as well as recording abundant populations of the Near Blue-throated Macaw flockThreatened Orinoco goose and Greater Rhea. The expedition also confirmed the reserve area as a paradise for waterbirds with a census recording very high concentrations of Egrets, Spoonbills, Jabirus and waterfowl. Nine species of boreal migrant shorebirds have been recorded on the reserve, including an observation of over three hundred Buff-breasted Sandpipers (Near Threatened) making the reserve a top priority boreal migrant stop-over site.

Giant AnteaterThey recorded the presence of the ICUN red listed Maned Wolf as well as high concentrations of Giant Anteater and Pampas deer (all Near threatened), high concentrations of other mammals such as Southern Tamandua, Black Howler Monkey, Capybara and Nine banded armadillo were also recorded. Jaguars were found to use the reserve, with one observation of a mother with cub.

The Barba Azul Nature Reserve is a jewel of natural savanna habitat. The Armonia/ Loro Parque Fundacion Blue-throated Macaw conservation program has plans to develop the area for tourism. The variety of habitats and the many tame bird species welcomes this are for visits of 3 to 4 days.

Logistics: Barba Azul has a field station that can receive researchers and tourists. For tourism it is a US$ 150 per night per person, with a three night minumum stay. The price includes everything, lodging (in the research station), food, boat and horse usage, and complete access to the reserve. Access by vehicle is very difficult and only in the dry season between June and Sept. Chartered flights can be purchased from Trinidad to visit that reserve. For 5 people, a 450 kg weight limit, a round-trip chartered flight to the reserve will cost 1,00 USD. It is ideal to combine visiting the Barba Azul Nature Reserve with the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve.