Searching for Tapir and Quetzals: Part 1 Spring 2019 Costa Rica Trip

In early March, Intertwined traveled to Costa Rica to reconnect with existing partnerships and to begin forging new ones. Driving around the country for two weeks in a Toyota Yaris—snail-paced up inclines, but dependable overall—Jenna Duarte (Executive Director and Founder), Koby Wendt (Interim President), Marco Wendt (Vice President), and Armando Flores (Development Coordinator) met with three partner organizations in addition to checking in with our own program.

The first organization they met with was the Costa Rica Wildlife Foundation (CRWF), located in the Los Quetzales National Park. As the car climbed the mountain and they gained elevation, the weather turned out to be a surprise. When you think of Costa Rica, Marco says, “you think of hot, humid weather—and we were not prepared for that kind of cloud forest.” As it’s one of the highest elevations in Costa Rica, clouds hug the mountaintops here and move large quantities of moisture rapidly across the sky, their constant circulation acting as a reminder that the forest lying below is equally active and alive. With a high of 60 degrees, the cloud forest was nothing like the hot, tropical weather one might have expected. The winds were strong as the road became increasingly windy, and the windshield wipers failed to clear the mist and rain away, making it impossible to see very far ahead.

Although they missed the turn for the Quetzal Lodge where they were supposed to meet Esteban of CRWF, they did notice something exciting as they continued driving into the forest: signs for tapir crossings. The roads were highly trafficked with speeding cars, and the signs indicated that an effort is being made to communicate to drivers that the tapirs’ home should be respected by more cautious driving.

Eventually the Intertwined group made it to the lodge where they were greeted with a “parade of color.” The lodge overlooked a beautiful backdrop of flora and fauna, with butterflies and “dozens and dozens” of hummingbirds flocking to the feeders set out for them. After a friendly greeting from a local dog, they met with Esteban and his crew and learned about the good work that CRWF has been up to in the area. CRWF aims “to ensure the prevalence of wildlife and its habitat” through initiatives that assist communities in making decisions that help them coexist with wildlife. Their species conservation program focuses on solutions to threats to keystone and flagship species in the tropical forests, with a specific emphasis on the conservation of quetzals, tapirs, and skué.

The purpose of Intertwined’s visit with CRWF was to learn about the organizations’ needs and how Intertwined can collaborate on a new program working with quetzals, tapirs, and the local community within Los Quetzales National Park. After the meeting, Esteban’s team immediately took Intertwined into the park itself, sharing information about tapirs and how the organization is currently working to learn about and protect these animals.

Jenna, Koby, Marco, and Armando stayed with a host family about 15 minutes away from the lodge, experiencing the warmth and generosity of the Costa Rican people. The cabin was beautiful and rustic, with a wood stove oven warming the house and being used to cook traditional meals with black beans, rice, and coffee.

Waking up early to try to catch a sighting of a quetzal—a small, vividly colored bird native to the area—the Intertwined group traveled to a ranch about five or ten minutes away, where their host was working with Esteban to conserve land for local wildlife. Specifically, they focus on conserving a certain species of avocado that attracts quetzal. Their wildlife tours help the local community and give them the ability to protect the land for wildlife and to prevent trees from being cut down.


As they trekked up the trail, they noticed man-made nest boxes in the trees. Local trees had been hollowed out and perched up, making it easier for quetzals to make nests. Because their beaks are not designed to hollow out trees, quetzals usually have to use trees that are weathered in such a way that they can create a nest. The man-made nests made the avocado grove even more inviting for the sacred bird of the ancient Mayans and Aztecs to make their homes in this preserve.

Even though this was the most likely area for quetzal sightings, the group received a call about a sighting at a nearby blackberry farm. After a quick drive to the farm, a missed sighting, breakfast with the host family, and another unsuccessful search, they gave up and had lunch before Esteban and his crew had to leave for San Jose. On Intertwined’s last day in Los Quetzales National Park, however, their patience finally paid off and Jenna spotted a pair of quetzals—a male and a female.

The group then packed up and headed out in the Yaris to meet the next partners.



Meet the Flock

Birds of a feather flock together—except among our ambassador parrot flock at Intertwined Conservation, where feathers range in size and color and our birds flocked together only due to random twists of fate. As different as our ambassadors are in species, personality, and background story, each of them shares the goal of furthering Intertwined’s message of conservation.

The parrots are the highlight of our education program, as they catch the students’ attention by bringing the stories of their species right before the kids’ eyes. Most of the students have only ever seen these types of birds in cages, so watching them in majestic flight helps kids understand that parrots are wild, complex animals that don’t belong as pets.

Our ambassadors, some of whom were in bad situations as pets, now represent their species in the classrooms we visit. We’d like to introduce these incredible birds to our online community so you can hear their stories too.

Panama, a 16-year-old Panama Amazon, was most likely bred in captivity before being purchased from a pet shop and passed along from home to home for 14 years—a pretty common situation for pet parrots. Panama found her fifth and final home with our founder Jenna about two years ago. Jenna originally took her in as a foster, but it took Panama so long to adjust that another change would have been too stressful. Panama is now the most vocal of all of our ambassadors, and she entertains countless classrooms with her unique vocalizations and vocabulary.

Named after the hurricane that hit the same summer she was hatched, Katrina is 14 years old. She is a Scarlet Macaw—the only one of our ambassadors whose species is native to Costa Rica. Her parents were smuggled across the border and confiscated, relinquished to the zoo, and then passed to a couple more homes. Despite having all of her flight feathers, she never flew in the large aviary where she was kept with other macaws, and she was the loner of the group. A year and a half ago she came to live with Jenna and began to work for the education program.










Our Congo African Greys—Polly and Doobie—came from abusive homes. Polly was kept in a fraternity house and, despite being abused by males, still prefers men to women. Doobie was confiscated from a drug lord’s house, where he had also been abused. During education events, Polly usually chooses not to participate, but Doobie sometimes is used as a second ambassador in the classroom and is a good talker, which is exciting for the kids. African Greys recently were bumped up from a threatened species to an endangered species; they are the most trafficked of all parrots, which makes it even more important for Polly and Doobie to share their stories of abuse and to advocate on behalf of their species.

Sadie, a 9-month-old Green Wing Macaw, is our youngest and most enthusiastic ambassador. She was given to us as a donation by Paul Colo, a highly respected breeder who began his breeding program to help off-set the illegal trade of parrots and end poaching in the wild. He gave Intertwined a chick so they could raise an ambassador for conservation. Jenna describes Sadie as being in her “terrible twos—she wants to be everywhere, mouth everything, and is the most high-energy and curious of everyone.” While most of the rescue birds have unpredictable moods and don’t always choose to participate in education sessions, Sadie is our go-to ambassador. She loves to be in the classroom and usually doesn’t want to get back in her crate to leave.

The ambassador birds lead a life of luxury at Intertwined, starting off each day with a huge bowl of fresh fruit and veggies and sun-bathing in their aviary in Escondido. We make sure that they always have the choice to participate in education sessions, and when they do participate their impact is obvious. As one of the first graders we visited eloquently put it: “I really like parrots, but I never wanted to save one until I saw them in person.”

Rescued Macaw Chicks Thriving

Two scarlet macaw chicks bound for the pet trade were rescued in Costa Rica last month.
Chris Castles with Hatched to Fly Free received two scarlet macaw chicks that were poached from their nests. A friend of the organization found the chicks in the possession of a local family that had been hired to get two macaw chicks. The person who hired the poachers to get the chicks never returned to collect them.
As the local family could no longer care for the growing chicks, they surrendered the chicks to Hatched to Fly Free.
Both of the scarlet macaw chicks are very friendly.

Scarlet Macaw Chicks

Rescued Scarlet Macaw Chicks

Though nothing is known about the chicks’ parentage, due to their size difference Castles believes they are from different nests. Since being taken in by hatched to fly free, both chicks have been putting on weight and developing quickly.
When the unnamed macaw chicks are old enough, they will be released back out into the wild.
The chicks were found near Cañaza.
Cañaza is a small region north of Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula on the west side of Costa Rica. It’s near the Reserva Forestal Golfo Dulce, a 56,000 hectare rainforest preserve.
Castles is the director of Hatched to Fly Free, which is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2014 that operates in Costa Rica. Their mission is to establish connections with local communities in order to protect native macaw species.
Over the past eleven years, Castles has been responsible for raising and releasing over 150 macaws in Costa Rica.
Due to poaching and deforestation, there are currently less than 4000 scarlet macaws left in Costa Rica.

Fundraiser Is a Win for Wildlife


WMA Fundraiser

Photo courtesy of the Wild Macaw Association

With the help of twenty-eight amazing donors, Intertwined Conservation Corporation raised $1000 as part of a fundraiser for scarlet macaw research and protection.
The fundraiser, called “Bikes for Biologists,” happened through, and the proceeds will be used to purchase four new aluminum bicycles for the Wild Macaw Association.
Founded in 2014, the WMA is a Costa Rican nonprofit organization that monitors wild populations of scarlet macaws in Tiskita, Costa Rica. Though once extinct in the region due to habitat loss and wildlife trafficking, between 2002 and 2014 seventy-five scarlet macaws were successfully reintroduced to the area.
Walking through Tiskita is a very ineffective way to track the birds. The known flight range of the released macaws is over 15,500 hectares—an area about the size of Washington, D.C.
Additionally, the region is heavily forested and mountainous, with few trails or roads. In order to successfully track and monitor the birds, bicycles are a necessity for traveling across the long, difficult terrain.
But recently, the last of the WMA’s old bicycles broke down beyond repair.
Living up to its label as a rainforest, Tiskita receives between 100 and 150 inches of rain annually. It is a hot and humid environment, and bicycles can easily rust and break down.
The four new bicycles from the fundraiser will help the WMA successfully monitor the macaws, by traveling quickly through the forests and trails.
Every day WMA biologists monitor known sites. Tracking is done visually, and there are no electronic tracking devices for the welfare of the birds. Before the birds were released, each one had an ID picture taken. Each bird’s band, feather markings, and other various distinguishing features were noted, and WMA biologists use these identify each bird.
Since 2008, some of the reintroduced scarlet macaws have successfully bred. Over thirty wild-born fledglings have been observed by WMA biologists. There is no nest management of these macaws.
The seventy-five reintroduced birds came from the Tiskita Scarlet Macaw Reintroduction & Conservation Program, a breeding program started by Richard and Margot Frisius. The WMA was formed by biologist Ilona Thewissen and other specialists in order to protect these reintroduced birds.
In the future, more releases into Tiskita may take place using birds rehabilitated from the pet trade.
Long term project goals of the WMA include establishing a viable Scarlet Macaw population, using the macaws as a flagship species to protect the greater habitat, and creating conservation career opportunities to protect these birds.
More information and opportunities to parter with the WMA can be found on their website.