Where Macaws Fly - The Story of the Buraco das Araras in Bonito, Brazil

Where Macaws Fly - The Story of the Buraco das Araras in Bonito, Brazil

The Buraco das Araras (Sinkhole of the Macaws) was once a cave. The roof collapsed and a big hole of 124 metres deep and 160 in diameter was formed. The cliffs proved ideal nesting grounds for Red-and-Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus) and other birds.


When Modesto Sampaio bought 100 ha of land near Bonito in 1986, there were no macaws living there any more. On closing the deal he discovered that his land had a big hole in it, where macaws once flew. Except it was now a rubbish dump full of vultures and, people whispered, dead bodies.


When tourists in search of beautiful nature started coming in growing numbers to the region, Modesto decided to clean up the sinkhole. In 1997, he took out 3 truckloads of rubbish and he released a pair of captive Red-and-Green Macaws there. But they left after a few days.  But then ... they came back ….


And not only did they come back, they started attracting other wild macaws. A few years later there were 12 macaws living there. And the macaws also decided to do a clean-up. In 2000, they kicked out the vultures for good after a big screaming battle.


More birds settled in this now attractive property and Modesto decided it was time for visitors to come and pay to see them.  And the visitors came. Modesto then registered this part of his property as a RPPN (Natural Heritage Private Reserve) and invested in a small bar, a visitors centre, walkways and lookout points.


Today some 60 to 100 noisy Red-and-Green Macaws live here and delight the visitors with there noisy antics and beautiful flyovers. They also offer great photo opportunities as they often fly below your vantage point. 


The macaw is known as Arara Vermelho Grande (Big Red Macaw) in Brazil. Its range is from eastern Panama, going down the east of Andes to Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. Though it is not endangered, its range has reduced, it was formerly also found in northeastern Argentina and the coastal Atlantic rainforest of Brazil. One of their favorite foods are the nuts of the Buriti or Wine Palm (Mauritia flexuosa).


“These macaws changed my life. Before them, I was just a solitary cowhand.  Today I meet people from all over the world. The macaws sustain the family. I can now leave something I am proud of for my grandchildren ” says Modesto.


The Buraco das Araras is one ot the top attractions in Bonito and apart from the macaws, the birdlist has already 125 species recorded.







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