It may seem like excessive attention being lavished on a single bird, the Scarlet Macaw named Big Red, and much ado about nothing, but the concerns of this newspaper go much beyond this singular and now famous parrot.
The Forest Department, which has legal responsibility for the care and protection of wildlife in Belize, has gone on record to say that it has loaned the iconic bird to the tourist facility at Harvest Caye after receiving credible information that it was not safe to release this parrot back into the wild.

Mr. Marcelo Windsor, the Forestry officer who made the decision to give the parrot a new home as an exhibition bird on Harvest Caye, says he was persuaded by reports from Dr. Isabel Paquet Durand, who had examined the bird and had determined that Big Red was not a suitable candidate for release back into the wild.

It turned out that Dr. Durand was not the disinterested party she seemed to be and could therefore not be relied upon to be objective in her assessment. It turned out further that Dr. Durand, who appears to be the curator of wildlife at Harvest Caye, never examined Big Red prior to it being removed from the care of Belize Bird Rescue, the professional organization which has been caring for him since infancy.
Big Red is a magnificent Macaw in vibrant scarlet. He weighs 21 pounds and has a wingspan of 3 1/2 feet from wingtip to wingtip. At twelve months old he is in the prime of good health and would make an ideal parent in the wild.
Confining him to a cage on Harvest Caye for gawking tourists to stare at is a lamentable future for a bird which could soar with the wind and become a patriarch to many scarlet macaw chicks.
His caregivers at Belize Bird Rescue, the people who have nurtured this macaw and know him well, have said that “ Big Red is a strong candidate for re-introduction back into the wild. If proper protocols were allowed to occur and health tests come back positive, Big Red could have potentially been incorporated into the macaw release program occurring in the Chiquibul. This was the approach Belize Bird Rescue was expecting to pursue in collaboration with the FCD and FD”.

It does appear from the evidence available that Dr. Isabel Pacquet Durand has been disingenuous in leading the Forestry Department to conclude that Big Red is good for show business and little more.

The Department and its Minister owe it to Belize and to themselves to re-examine the decision to remove Big Red from the care of Belize Bird Rescue to launch it on a career as showbird.

If they find that they have been misled, their duty is clear. They must return the bird to its original care-givers and provide it with the one chance it has of being re-introduced into the wild, with its own kind, where it belongs.
This is not only about Big Red. It is a matter of integrity in nature and seeking after truth among humans and looking out for the greater good of Belize.

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