A total of 60 scarlet macaws will be set free in an ecological park in southeastern Mexico to avoid the extinction of this colorful subspecies, several of the organizers said.

"Only between 250 and 400 specimens remain, a population shared with Guatemala and Belize," biologist Rodolfo Raigosa said as the first 27 birds were being delivered at Aluxes Park, about 2 kilometers (1 mile) from the natural forest of Palenque in Chiapas state.

After 12 hours of being transported by road, the birds from the Xcaret Center for the breeding of macaws, located on the Yucatan Peninsula, were placed in a "preliberation" cage where they will stay for the next three months.

There, observed by veterinarians, biologists and ornithological experts, they will learn to "recognize their food in the wild, identify natural predators, spot places where they can shelter among the trees and learn to fly free."

The program, which plans to release 60 specimens throughout 2013 and some 250 over the next five years, will be accompanied by "a significant effort to raise awareness among the local population" to avoid the capture and sale of the birds, as well as to promote the protection of their natural habitats.

In Mexico, the scarlet macaw once inhabited the entire Gulf coast from Tamaulipas to Chiapas, including Veracruz and Tabasco, but the destruction and fragmentation of their ecosystem, along with the illegal parrot trade and the stealing of newly hatched chicks, decimated the population to leave it an endangered species. EFE