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The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  377 ratings  ·  98 reviews
“The first time we came here I didn’t know what to expect,” she told me as we paddled upstream. “What we found just blew me away. Jaguars, pumas, river otters, howler monkeys. The place was like a Noah’s Ark for all the endangered species driven out of the rest of Central America. There was so much life! That expedition was when I first saw the macaws.”

As a young woman, Sh
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Published January 13th 2009 by Random House (first published January 1st 2008)
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I'm an admittedly "distracted" reader and often have several books going at once, but once I was a few pages into this one, I dropped all other reading to immerse myself in it. I should note that Belize has been on my travel wish-list for some years now, but I had only a dim notion of the country's politics and history. Purely as an education in all things Belizean, this is a terrific book. The history, culture, geography, and major players are all there. But beyond that, this book is a real eye ...more
I have to admit that I often read books with an eye to edit. What would I cut to make it more efficient? This is a story of a woman trying to save the last nesting ground of the scarlet macaw in Belize from being flooded by the construction of a dam to provide her country with much needed electricity. Did we need the chapter on the Mayan civilization? Did we need to know the entire colonial history of Belize? Did we need an overview of dams in the United States? The answer is yes. All this infor ...more
You'll love the writing style, the characters and the setting, but it will get your ire up.
Joyce Mitchell
Every time I go to San Francisco, the first stop is usually a long walk to City Lights Booksellers. The most amazing indie-bookstore on planet earth! I'm always discovering new gems here. This being one of them. I love natural history, and at times, struggle with it in context to conservation. Conservation has become such a dirty word, and with understood cause. I love my 'earth' fighting friends, but understand that they often alienate with their passionate (albeit righteous) propagandizing rat ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Contributing editor to Outside magazine and author Bruce Barcott (The Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier [1997]) has constructed a gripping and suspenseful account of one woman's crusade against corrupt foreign governments and multinational corporations to save the habitat of an endangered bird. Barcott's simple and eloquent prose, vivid descriptions, and ability to render the most complicated business deals and legal concepts in clear layman's terms allow him to tame this

I found myself wishing this guy had won a Pulitzer. The book is so well written and edited, pulling off the feat of being simultaneously comprehensive and spare. When warranted, the author takes his readers on brief trips to Africa or Canada or London; he explains electricity, arcane colonial law, and the fascinating, paralyzing history and politics of Belize. All this, but he never loses sight of the ecology and beauty of the Macal Valley, nor of the center of his book, Sharon, who tried to sav ...more
This book caught my eye at Barnes and Noble and I knew that I had to get it. I chose this book because I wanted to read something a little different then your average book. In this novel Sharon Matola brings together locals to fight against a dam that would flood the nesting site of the scarlet macaw. My favorite quote is “The first time we came here I didn’t know what to expect,” she told me as we paddled upstream. “What we found just blew me away. Jaguars, pumas, river otters, howler monkeys. ...more
Every once in awhile, a book comes along, grabs my attention and as I turn over the last page I feel a interminable sense of sadness that the journey is finally over and there is no more to read.

The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw was fascinating and fantastically written. Bruce Barcott brought Sharon Matola and the plight of the habitat threatened by the Chailillo Dam alive with a sense of immediacy and passion.

My only regret is that I hadn't read this book sooner.
Highly recommended for ecological learning, how harmful dams really are, how big capitalist global companies ruin wildlife and culture, and of course, the living habits of the endangered Scarlet Macaw. The author also writes for Outdoor magazine and did some extremely thorough and amazing research. He managed to keep digging up facts, just when you thought he couldn't get any more. Read about the real-life heroine attempting to save the Macaws. Excellent!
Belize, animals, dams and a strong woman making things happen. It's the perfect blend of things that interest me. I went to Belize for an amazing vacation last spring and so much of what was described was familiar. I also learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes with the government. I found the book hard to put down, something unique in nonfiction for me. I highly recommend this book.
Cody Rawlings
The last flight of the scarlet macaw is my favorite book at the moment because it has a little bit of everything that I like. Some parts are sad and some parts made me happy. It tells the journey of one women who set out to save an animals life. Even though she was doubted and had people going against her she still went on with the plan.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes animals and books that take place in a tropical setting and that bring up history and government. Over all I wou
Very interesting read.

It's amazing what goes on in politics, both in 3rd world and 1st world countries. It's a shame too, because it affects many aspects.
A wonderful account of how one woman's passion for saving the Scarlet Macaw made a difference. A motivating story to encourage people that they can make a difference.
Even though this wasn't classified as a travel narrative at my local library (pretty sure it was in the animal section...), it came as one of the highly recommended reads for Belize according to Lonely Planets recommended reading list. While I must admit, that I had a hard time keeping all of the lawyers, geologists, politicians, etc. straight, I did find the overall story pretty interesting. The author also provided some really interesting information about the history and politics of Belize, w ...more
Christine Lynch
For prior vacations I have not always taken it upon myself to learn about the local culture or history of the places i would be seeing, and have sorely regretted it. So in preparation for my January 2015 trip to Belize, I turned to Lonely Planet for recommendations on Belizean literature/books on Belize. Not surprisingly, the choices are slim.
I started The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw simply because it was the easiest to get ahold of, but was pleasantly surprised with what I learned, not onl
Generic review:
The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw is a well-written and engaging book. It gave a basic overview of Belize's history (pirates and British colonialism). With that as background, Barcott went on to teach about a major modern event in Belize, the battle to build/stop the Chalillo Dam. Through the events of this battle he portrays the political, social and environmental climates in Belize. From Barcott's perspective, the Belizian government at the time ran on cronyism, with the purp
Barcott, Bruce. 2008. The last flight of the scarlet macaw: one woman's fight to save the world's most beautiful bird. Random House, New York. (Anacortes Public Library: 333.9587 Bar. 07/08/2008)
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6293-5
Sharon Matola, a passionate wildlife defender, sets up a zoo of abandoned, wounded, sick animals, birds,and reptiles that come her way in Belize. To defend the original home of wildlife in her adopted country, she finds herself battling the building of a dam.
I enjoyed Mayan, Spa
The book is about trying to save wildlife in a country that ostensibly felt it needed to supply more electricity to its population--specifically, it tells of efforts to save the Scarlet Macaw. I enjoyed this book because it enlightened me to the world of environmental groups. The lawyers fighting the Belize government's plan to build a dam, thereby destroying the prime nesting grounds of some of the remaining 200 Scarlet Macaw and prime wildlife breeding grounds in Belize, are actually from the ...more


This book is environmental journalism at its best, and better yet, it reads like a suspense novel. Unfortunately, the circumstances of the book are non-fiction, and the ongoing environmental devastation that is occurring within the context of a complicated political history is very real.

The main character of the book, Sharon Matola, is an extraordinary woman, and a fr
I had a love/hate relationship with this book. While I really enjoyed the subject and found it a quick and enjoyable read, it had some major flaws. The most irritating of these was that whole book read like one magazine article after another; sometimes only loosely related to each other.

Aside from the writing style this book covered so many different and interesting topics. I liked learning more about the history of Belize; its ruins, wars, jungles, strange and beautiful animals, and how it cam
blog post for library --

Hubby and I are starting to daydream about our next vacation. While looking over travel books, and talking to friends about their recent travels, a friend gushed about his recent trip to Belize. I’m not sure if timing, a toddler or finances will allow it, but I picked up the book The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird anyway.

The woman in question fighting to save the scarlet macaws is Sharon Matola, owner and direct
What does a developing third world nation do to provide electricity for their country? There is no oil, gas, or fossil fuel found in Belize. They could buy from foreign neighbors like Mexico but at what price? One thing Belize has going for her is her rivers. If dammed, they could provide hydroelectric power to the Belizeans. Sounds good, right? There are a couple of problems with this:

1) Belize prides itself on conserving her jungle and it animals. Dammed rivers would destroy river valleys like
Robin Taylor
This is a compelling story about a woman who set out to save a few animals who were to be abandoned after a movie shoot, and ended up (contributing to the ) saving (of) a few species from extinction in Belize. The story draws you in with its intriguing characters and in-depth reporting of all the complex political, environmental, geological and historical issues surrounding her efforts to save the Scarlet Macaw. Beautifully told and impeccably researched, it is a hard book to put down.
After visiting the Belize Zoo and hearing all about Sharon Matola this book became a must read for me. Barcott does a wonderful job explaining how the politics work there along with nailing the beauty of Belize and its wonderful wildlife that needs to be spoken up for and protected. The writing style he uses is super easy to read and makes the reader feel like they are right there beside him in his journey to see and protect these beautiful birds.
Kristine Bagnara
Absolutely perfect reading for our trip to Belize. Bruce Barcott does a stellar job of covering a complex topic. The fate of Belize's Scarlett macaws is tangled in colonial history, man's insatiable quest for personal wealth and the passionate efforts of a few amazing global citizens. I must thank the author for his extraordinary research and Sharon Matola for her animal advocacy. You gave my husband and I food for thought, more than one interesting travel discussion and reason for hope.
Danielle T
Despite this being nonfiction I didn't look up what happened to the project until after i finished... and now I"m pretty bummed, because SPOILER ALERT the dam gets built anyway. I picked this up from the Friends of Library booksale at the Boise Public Library last summer and didn't get around to reading it until I moved and found myself without a library card for a week (my backlog of used books could keep me going for a while).

The biology of the Macal River and Belize is covered early on, but
This was my favorite book of the year! With fantastically zany characters reminiscent of those from a Carl Hiaasen novel, I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading a work of nonfiction. (To give an idea, the book centers around the efforts of the ex-wife of a dentist in Iowa, who hopped a train to Florida, became an apprentice tiger tamer, took a job as a dancer in a traveling Mexican circus, quit the circus and smuggled a monkey back to the U.S., went to Belize to assist with a nature d ...more
Sharon Matola runs the Belize Zoo. At her zoo, they rescue and rehabilitate injured or orphaned animals. When there was a dam proposed in Belize that would threaten the habitat of the few remaining scarlet macaws in Belize, she made it her purpose to fight the dam with everything she had. The author travelled to and from Belize for a number of years to document what happened.

This was really good. The book also takes a look at the history and politics of Belize, as well. It's so frustrating, tho
Tome Reader
Well written. Barcott never talks over the reader. I really enjoyed the tangent chapters on birds, dams, Belize history etc. I got sucked right into the first half of the book.

Eventually, though, the corruption, graft, coverups, swindling, lies, greed, rigged reports, board meetings and legal chapters just got overwhelming, then boring (does it ever end? No it does not) and then super depressing because, after all, this is a true story.

I know how this sad tale ends so by the time we get to a t
3 1/2 stars, really. First of all, I find the title to be a little deceiving. Though macaws are the driving force behind the main character's passions, the book is really much more about the battle over a dam, a corrupt country trying to achieve dependence, and the many people and animals that get caught in the middle. In other words, this book is about so much more than the title even begins to suggest. There was also something about the writing that didn't capture my attention the way I though ...more
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Bruce Barcott is an American editor, environmental journalist and author. He is a contributing editor of Outside and has written articles for The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Mother Jones, Sports Illustrated, Harper's Magazine, Legal Affairs, Utne Reader and others. He has also written a number of books including, The Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier (1997 ...more
More about Bruce Barcott...
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