LA GARITA DE ALAJUELA, Costa Rica (AP) -- Endangered scarlet macaws born in captivity are reproducing in the wild for the first time on Costa Rica's southern Pacific coast.
The ZooAve Center for the Rescue of Endangered Species has released 100 of the birds into the wild in the last decade. But biologists didn't spot offspring until last year, said biologist Laura Fournier.
Since then, they have recorded 22 chicks born in the wild, and four more scarlet macaw couples have laid eggs, Fournier said.
The parrots once occupied all of Costa Rica. But hunting and poaching dramatically cut their population, and they are now found only in two national parks along the coast.
The biologists' goal is for 200 birds to populate an isolated coastal area.
Chicks are hatched at the ZooAve center in La Garita northwest of the capital, San Jose. At six months, they take a 200-mile trip to the southern city of Golfito, then travel by boat to a beach and finally the isolated San Josecito conservation center far from human settlements. There they spend up to three more months in captivity before being released.
The parrots, which live up to 80 years, can start reproducing at age 7. Of ZooAve's 86 scarlet macaws, 54 are in the reproduction program.
Many parrots in the breeding program were confiscated by environmental authorities or turned in by their former owners. Some can't leave the sanctuary because they don't know how to survive in the wild.
"Many don't even know how to feed themselves," Fournier said.