No one has seen the Macaws, not since the dam went up. The stunning birds disappeared in the forests of Belize. Their beautiful feathered figures have yet to be seen again.
Bruce Barcott, the author of “The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw,” painted the story of the Macaws for his audience on March 5. In one hour he covered six years of Sharon Matola’s plight to save the birds, and it all started with a phone call.
“Writing a book where she’s the main character, it’s a challenge to try to capture her as a person in all her complexity, not just sort of a flat cardboard character who represents maybe one point of view on a certain issue,” Barcott said. “I really wanted this book to try to capture all of her humanity. That was one of the challenges for me, was to capture those days when she runs up into the frustrations of trying to fight an environmental battle like this.”
With one phone call from a friend Barcott was dragged into a drama to be remembered. Though the dam ultimately destroyed the Macaw nesting grounds and Matola’s cause was lost, because of Barcott’s book more people are weighing in on the missing birds.
“It’s a shame that it happened in such a beautiful country where so much wildlife has been preserved, because I think that it’s a beautiful country and it would be nice to be able to maintain all of that wildlife,” said Alicia Bates, senior nursing major.
But the Macaws weren’t the only ones affected by the dam.
The water from the river was no longer safe to drink, the fish were full of mercury and people reported getting rashes from swimming in the water.
“It’s really heart wrenching,” said Tiffany Eaves, senior biology major. “I think there’s so much that you have to take in when you think about things like that, because there’s so many different factors and things that go into it.”
The story of these birds and the woman who tried to save them brings many elements to light, and shows how one decision can affect multiple facets of life.
But the birds were still on Barcott’s mind.
“If we were able to go back in there by the dam, I would love to go back with a team of biologists,” Barcott said. “If we were to find any of them (Macaws) that are nesting back there it would be amazing to find out whether they’re the same kind of hollows that were there before the dam or whether they’re not nesting at all and there’s no chicks coming along.”
Barcott encouraged students looking for a project to go search for the birds, if they had the means.
If they wanted an adventure, and they wanted to be the first ones to know the fate of the missing birds, he told them they should go down to Belize, and find the last Macaws.