Parque das Aves -- A Hidden Treasure of Brazil
The Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil offers vast and seemingly endless forest that is home to diverse and captivating wildlife. While boasting a staggering 507,000 square miles of land and water this leaves little room to question the potential for creating a beautiful ecosystem. In fact roughly 8% of all species on the planet live here! However such finely balanced ecology doesn't come without a price. Rainforests across the world are highly susceptible to the changing climate, deforestation, and ever-changing population. Because of this it's important, now more than ever, for us to step in and protect the beauty we've been given.
Started in 1994, Parque das Aves in Paraná Brazil strives to do just this. Sitting right outside of Iguaçu Falls(which deserves a writeup of its own) Parque das Aves serves as the only sanctuary for displaced atlantic rainforest birds. From the outside it's quite easy to misinterpret just how far this sanctuary actually extends. Driving up you'll find a large unmistakable sign confirming you're in the right place followed by a seemingly small and jungly entrance that doesn't feel big enough for the number of cars parked; maybe I have poor depth perception, however, getting closer it's definitely big enough. One lesser mentioned aspect of the park is just how amazing and vibrant the plant life is. The exterior appears just as you might assume for a place that's home to birds native to the rainforest; a lot of trees. However, passing through the entrance you're immediately met with large and diverse plant life that spans every color you can think of. Even if you tend to care less about the botanical things in life, it's truly hard to not appreciate it before the slew of equally colorful birds.
While it can be easy to assume the park's design is merely happenstance of location, this is far from the truth. The idea is to simulate a natural environment for the birds, at the same time this gives visitors an experience that truly doesn't feel artificial. One exciting aspect of the park is the option to have brief interactions with select birds in the form of feeding. Holding out a dense stick of bird food immediately attracts quite a few of the red-tailed parrots but surprisingly doesn't illicit the same chaotic response you might expect from seagulls on the beach. As a photographer this is my ideal scenario. So many new and colorful details become clear that you may never notice in the wild. It also leads to unique opportunities to capture some awesome photos while the birds are briefly distracted with food; much like the photo below.
On the larger end Parque das Aves is home to multiple types of macaw, all of which are stunningly vibrant. It's almost as if the previously mentioned floral colors are to mimic, or complement, what visitors will soon be seeing. Located in a different area of the park there is once again the chance to get close(but not too close) and experience how they may act, for the most part, in the wild. From their unique style of climbing, to bathing in a man-made river, and even just sometimes sleeping there's no shortage of cool photos to snap, even if you don't have an expensive lens.
A lesson I've learned in photography is simply to always be ready. Nature and wildlife is completely unpredictable and that "right" moment often comes without warning. I was once again reminded of this within seconds of walking into the macaw enclosure. The entrance is up against a fence and its not uncommon to see multiple birds relaxing while hanging on the side. While trying to quickly take in as much as possible I was unexpectedly greeted by a blue-and-gold macaw ten feet above me, hanging upside down, and looking curiously. Being a photographer my first instinct is always: see something cool? Take a picture. As with everything else at Parque das Aves, I thoroughly enjoyed the result.
These are of course two small examples of what a visitor might see on a typical day. Exploring deeper into the park I loved being able to see, amount other things, multiple Harpy Eagle and Spectacled Owl enclosures. Both of which are magnificent, however, unfortunately they're critically endangered in the state of Paraná, and as such would be very hard to find in the wild. Parque das Aves puts a heavy emphasis on slowing the threat to these species and the immense amount of work they do to accomplish this is shown around every corner.
Once exiting the main park there is a gift shop to help visitors remember their trip and further support the park's conservation efforts. To date Parque das Aves has helped restore 16 hectares of Atlantic Rainforest, planted thousands of native trees, and currently hosts over 1300 birds, over 50% of which were rescued from mistreatment. The work their 200+ employees do is having an extremely positive impact on not only the 130+ species they care for, but also the Foz do Iguaçu region and Atlantic Rainforest.
If you'd like to read and learn more about all of the awesome stuff they do that I didn't mention here you can find them online at: https://www.parquedasaves.com.br/.
If that's not enough and you'd like to see the awesome stuff they do, I'd recommend checking them out on Instagram.
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