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Women and Parrots Share Loss and Strength

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

The scarlet macaws swirled around their nest tree, calling loudly but to no avail. Their newly laid eggs were gone, the human culprits only leaving the tracks of their climbing spikes gouging the pine tree. The chicks from these eggs, if they ever hatched, were on their way illegally to Nicaragua and then to international destinations all over the world. We lost so many young parrots lives this year in our parrot conservation project, more than the year before. The poaching rate had increased from 10% to 15% of all nests, with the majority of this increase coming from the illegal extraction of eggs.

Some macaw parrots can re-lay within the same season, and this is what nest #16 did. “Double clutching” is not easy for these birds, but the parents managed to not only have the new clutch of eggs hatch, but also feed them well enough so that the chicks could grow and one day fly free. Except that didn’t happen. Poachers came once again to this tree, and chopped it down with a machete. We don’t know if the chicks survived, and if they did, how many broken bones they had. Regardless, the parents had twice lost the future they hoped to share with their fledged chicks, who often stay with their parents for many months and with whom they have a lifetime relationship.

I told this story to a group of women and children gathered in the village of Rus Rus in October. Caren Lacuth, a project coordinator (photo below), and I were visiting to meet with the women that were part of the “Women Saving the Endangered Scarlet Macaw Project” administered by INCEBIO, our partners in La Moskitia, Honduras. We wanted to listen to their experience as rangers in this new project. They had a lot to say about how much they appreciated the project, and also how they were upset over the increased poaching, especially as it might have been perpetrated by men they knew or who were even in their families. This meeting had a lot of energy in it, perhaps because the women were more invested in the project than before, for now they were direct income earners and project participants.

As I listened to their plans and ideas, and as always, the ever-present complaints and conflict, I thought I was seeing direct evidence of what studies have shown: When not just men, but also women participate in conservation, outcomes improve and family health increases for humans as well as for the wildlife with whom they live.

Moved by their commitment, I wanted to return the gift, so I ended the meeting with this…

“The mother in nest #16 wants to live well, as do you. She wants a healthy and happy future for her young, just as you do. All beings want to avoid loss and have enough for their families. You feel it in your heart, as do I, the cries of the that scarlet macaw mother crying for her children, for you too have known loss. You share not just loss with the parrots you protect, but power and desire. The macaw parents sacrifice much for their chicks and flock, as you do for your families and community. What a powerful combination, you, the women of these villages and these, the parrots of the savanna and forest. There is such strength here in this room and flying over us, and maybe, just maybe, we can build the world we want our children to live in.”

They applauded, and then went back to fussing with one another, just as the macaws so often do. They raise their feet and lunge at each other, in play perhaps, because this is their way of asking each other to recommit to a peaceful relationship. We are more like the parrots, and stronger, than we think we are, especially when we come together, parrot and human families united.


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