Centerville woman helps macaws

Documentary to premiere in Cincinnati.

Centerville resident Bernadette Coutain Plair recently returned from Trinidad and Tobago, where she spoke at the premiers of a documentary on her efforts to reintroduce the blue and gold macaw to her native Trinidad. She’ll be attending the documentary’s regional premiere with her husband on Oct. 20, and she will speak afterward.

“We met at the College of Mount Saint Joseph,” said her husband, Norman. “In 1968 we got married, then moved to Centerville in 1976.”

His wife started working at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Center of Reproduction of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) soon after it opened in 1991, and stayed until 2011.

“During that time, she founded CRESTT, the Center for the Rescue of Endangered Species of Trinidad and Tobago,” said Plair. “She grew up near the Nariva Swamp in Trinidad and saw the blue and gold macaws disappear due to poaching, illegal pet trading and destruction of habitat. It had been her dream since the 60s to bring them back.

“While working with CREW, the zoo’s conservation group gave her a grant to develop her idea; they were also behind the purchase of the first flock to be re-introduced.”

Bernadette’s plan to use rescued macaws from nearby Tobago didn’t pan out, and it was decided to catch wild-caught macaws from Guyana, with funds from private and corporate donors.

“She worked through the governments, and brought in the first shipment of 17 birds, then a second for a total of 31, of which 26 survived. With help from Trinidad and Tobago’s wildlife organizations and volunteers from nearby villages, the macaws have been acclimated and released, and there are now more than 80.”

A CRESTT member who’d filmed the process from 1999-2008 was approached by the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company to create a documentary. With funding from the company, he edited his footage and added voiceovers to produce a 47-minute film, which was selected for both the short film and documentary categories at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.

“She’s quite pleased with the film’s reception, and with the support she’s had from the wildlife sections of both governments, plus the schools on the island.”

The local premier will be at the college of Mount St. Joseph at 1 p.m. Oct. 20. Admission is free and the screening will be followed by a question-answer period and reception provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

For more information and seat reservations, go to the school’s website at www.msj.edu.

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