Just one person can make an enormous difference.
While helping lead a wildlife photography workshop in Brazil, my group and I visited Buraco das Araras (Hole of the Macaws), a large sinkhole located on the edge of Rio de Prata in Brazil’s southern Pantanal. At 500 meters round and 100 meters deep, Buraco das Araras is South America’s largest sinkhole.
The history of this sinkhole illustrates how one person can change the world for good. A couple of decades ago, looking at a gigantic sinkhole on his property, a Brazilian farmer wondered what to do with it. Once a nesting site for Red-and-green Macaws, few came around anymore: they were harassed and shot for target practice, and the hole had become a dumping ground filled with trash. But the landowner turned things around, closed off the area, and cleaned up all the trash. The macaws returned, and this became and remains an important nesting site for these magnificent birds.
Despite the success of this location, in recent years there has been a marked decline in the worldwide populations of all macaws due to habitat loss and illegal capture for the parrot trade. Macaws, parrots, and parakeets are captured by the tens of thousands each year. To cage a bird so social, acrobatic, and joyful in its exuberant flight, makes my heart hurt. Especially after seeing it in the wild, I can’t imagine the torture of captive life for such a creature. These are birds that need and deserve to live free and wild, and in longstanding, bonded relationships with a mate--not as decoration or companionship for humans. If you really yearn to have a bird in your life, know that there are thousands needing adoption. There are specialized adoption networks for them, as they, with life spans of 50 years, often outlive their owners, or are abandoned. Sanctuaries are also in need of people to re-home parrots and macaws, to help alleviate the problem of overcrowding in these rescue facilities. Please follow the work of World Parrot Trust and Birdlife International to learn how you can help, either with adoption or with these organizations’ conservation work in the wild.
In the sinkhole, my guests and I were awestruck by what a fantastic destination this was for birders and bird photographers. Two-story wooden platforms at either end afford visitors wonderful views into the vast recesses of the sinkhole. Precipitous pink sandstone walls rise up from a green lagoon and lush forest at the base. Most spectacularly, vibrant Red-and-green Macaws soar and wheel in flashes of color. They come to rest, often in pairs, in crevices along the cliff faces, or on the branches of rugged trees rooted in the sandstone. These birds mate for life and constantly engage in tender bonding behavior, preening one another gently, locking beaks, or simply resting pressed up close from shoulder to tail. Here, they soar from the depths and thrive in freedom.