Environmental education courses are given to third and fourth graders in several primary schools in the region. Traditionally, this has included a month long course using a coloring book designed by former research assistant, Dr. Nicole Nemeth. At the end of the course, children were taken on a fieldtrip to Carara National Park and Finca Quebrada Bonita to observe chicks being weighed and measured by researchers.
In 2004 an intensive course was given at four local schools. The coloring books were used, but additionally 73 other activities were carried out over a six month period. While some activities were directly related to Scarlet Macaw ecology and conservation, many were designed around the theme of how the Scarlet Macaw contributed to ecotourism in the region. Making handicrafts with the children was another activity which in the future could help these children earn money and hence provide an alternative to macaw and parrot poaching.
The activities carried out included:
1) Painting t-shirts with macaw designs;
2) Watching videos about macaw conservation projects;
3) Making clay models of macaws;
4) Lessons on other endangered macaw species;
5) Card games about endangered macaw species as illustrating to the previous class;
6) Drawing pictures of wildlife found in the Central Pacific, which was used to make a mural for the visitor’s centre at Carara National Park;
7) Counting macaws flying between Guacalillo Mangrove Reserve and surrounding areas in early morning and late afternoon from a lookout point in a local resort;
8) Writing songs about scarlet macaws and their threats;
9) Learning and playing a game about important food and nesting trees for the Scarlet Macaw;
10) Making Christmas cards with Scarlet Macaw drawings.
Learning from the courses given in 2000 (with Quebrada Ganado), 2003 (with Tárcoles) and 2004 (with Playa Azul, Capulín, Quebrada Ganado and Tárcoles) was monitored by questionnaires with the children, their parents and other community members. Results of these interviews have either been analyzed (Vaughan et al 2003) or are being analyzed for publication.
‘Locura de Lapas’ - Macaw Festival
A community fair named ‘Locura de Lapas’ (Macaw Madness) was held on March 26th, 2005 to celebrate the Central Pacific Scarlet Macaw population. The fair was held in the village of Tárcoles, a strategic location both because macaws can be observed playing in the wind and feeding on beach almonds around houses in the town, and because macaw poachers live there and in nearby Playa Azul.
For the fair, we coordinated football matches and showed a theatre performance about macaw conservation with children of Playa Azul, some sons and daughters of macaw poachers. After the play, local musicians played traditional music and dancers gave a traditional Costa Rican dancing performance. We also provided traditional food throughout.
This was the first year for the ‘Locura de Lapas’ fair, so it was small, however many local residents arrived to support macaw conservation. We want to conduct the fair on a yearly basis and hope it will become an anticipated part of the local culture.
Theatrewith Local Children
For the fair ‘Locura de Lapas’, (see above) we coordinated a theatre performance with the children of Playa Azul. They had never participated in such an event and were very excited to be involved. As described below, the play reinforced messages learned from the environmental education classes of 2004.
The Macaw Legend (Leyenda de lasLapas), describes a year in the life of a pair of Scarlet Macaws and threats facing the macaws.
The play (Part 1) begins in August in Guacalillo Mangrove Reserve, the macaws’ roosting site. As the sun rises, the macaws boisterously leave the mangrove swamp in search of food. Tourists and a naturalist guide arrive, and while the tourists are in awe of the beauty of the macaws, the guide explains that very few macaws remain in the area due to heavy poaching for the pet trade. They are in danger of becoming extinct! This is sad because the macaws are beautiful creatures, which in the wild attract many tourists, providing jobs for local people.
Part 2 takes place in September. The macaws are searching for future nests and find themselves in several entertaining situations, because all pairs have nests except one. After unsuccessfully fighting with another pair for a nest and being shocked by an iguana living in a tree cavity, they eventually find an artificial nest box where they lay their eggs.
In Part 3, the macaws are tired of incubating their eggs, but the chicks finally hatch. Researchers come to measure and weigh a young chick. A passing guide explains to her tourist group that scientists are trying to conserve the Scarlet Macaw.
Part 4 is the climax of the play. The chicks are almost ready to fledge when poachers arrive to steal them. One poacher steals a nestling while a second isconvinced by a group of students to leave the nest in peace. The students explain to the poacher that a wild macaw is worth far more than a caged macaw. The play ends contrasting the fate of the poached macaw living sadly in a cage with the saved macaw happily flying free with the rest of the flock.