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Parrot Conservation

In the tropical forests of Peru and Bolivia, the forest echoes the loud squawks of colorful macaws. Ten years ago, scientists knew little about these wild parrots, until Dr. Charles Munn of the Wildlife Conservation Society began studying them. According to Munn, "This research has led to parrot-oriented ecotourism in these economically poor, but biologically rich countries."

Parrots eating clay 

Natural antacids . . .

Tourists can travel to Manu National Park in Peru to watch hundreds of red, blue, and green macaws flock to clay cliffs, where they nibble their daily dose of natural "antacids" to counteract toxins in their diet.

In addition, Munn's studies have also provided data to support the creation of the Tambopata-Candamo Reserve in Peru, and the Madidi National Park in Bolivia, in the early 1990s. There, giant anteaters, peccaries, and scores of other species live protected within the nine-million-acre boundaries of these parks.

As an effort to reduce the stress of habitat destruction and poaching -- two forces causing macaw populations to dwindle -- Munn and his colleagues construct fake, hollow trees out of plastic pipe to provide nesting sites. The team also hand-rears chicks that would otherwise die and successfully reintroduces them into the wild. They often rely on the knowledge of reformed bird smugglers to help them find nests in the thick forest. "The creation of these parks and projects," says Munn, "demonstrates that when properly empowered and promoted, macaws can do more than their share of the heavy lifting to save the world's richest tropical forests."

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