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Toucans, Collared Aracaris and the Kellogg Company PDF Print
Collared Aracari
Collared Aracari on the Rio Dulce
 by Jody Aston, Editor
July 29, 2015

Many people are familiar with the colorful Toucan – especially if they have seen advertisements featuring Kellogg Company’s Froot Loop cereal-loving mascot, Toucan Sam. Well, we have the real thing right here on the Rio Dulce! In fact, we have at least two species of the family (Ramphastidae), and a third can be seen to the north of us, in the Peten district.

Our banner, above, is a (captive) Keel-billed Toucan. This brightly colored species is arguably one of the most beautiful of all tropical birds. Almost comical in flight, it seems their giant beak would weigh them down, and one expects to see them do a nose-dive to the ground. Looks are deceiving, though, because the beaks are honey-combed and mostly hollow. The structure enables them to pick and manipulate fruits, their favorite food, although they occasionally eat insects and small lizards or snakes.

Lesser known, but just as interesting, is the somewhat smaller, Collared Aracari, pronounced “ara sorry.” Whereas the Toucan is more solitary in breeding habits, Aracaris have communal breeding. The mother and father, both, incubate and feed the young, as well as receiving help from up to six aunts and uncles and other family members. They live together, year-round, in holes in trees, usually old residences of woodpeckers. They can be rather naughty neighbors, as they have also been known to kick out a poor woodpecker from its home, after it has done all the work of boring a hole.

Two Aracaris
Two Aracaris Feeding on Cecropia Fruits

As you ride along the Rio Dulce, watch for the type tree in the photo, as it is a favorite of Aracaris and Toucans. You may be lucky enough to spot these magnificent birds. The trees are called Cecropias and are distinguished by large leaves and few branches, which aids in sighting the brilliant birds eating the fruits of the Cecropia. The leaves are usually riddled with holes, as you can see in our photos.

ImageWhen researching for this article, I stumbled upon a surprising thing that happened, concerning Toucan Sam and Guatemala. In 2011, the world’s largest cereal maker, Kellogg Company, brought a Cease and Desist legal order against a small non-profit organization in Guatemala, called the Maya Archeological Initiative (MAI).


ImageKellogg felt they had sole rights to the use of a toucan’s image, because they own the copyright to Toucan Sam. Although their logo/mascot is a fictional character, with colors that only match the food-color in their sugary cereal and are unlike any real toucan, they attempted to prevent MAI from using a toucan image in their logo. Even more absurd, Kellogg objected to the image of the Maya temple behind the toucan in MAI’s image.

MAI fought back and said that their logo was more true to a real toucan, and the organization certainly had the right to use a major Maya archeological feature in their logo. Kellogg’s only connection to the Maya culture was in one of their cartoon games set in the Maya world, where the evil villain was a witch doctor. MAI’s legal counsel, Sarah Mott, issued a statement to Kellogg’s corporate counsel, saying, “There is nothing Mayan in [the Froot Loops] Adventure. Disturbingly, the villain in this Kellogg’s Adventure—and the only character of color—is a ‘witch doctor’ who cackles malevolently when stealing from children. At best, this is culturally insensitive. I would characterize it as a demeaning caricature of an advanced and ancient civilization.”

Good sense, or more probably, wise public relations counsel, prevailed and Kellogg Company backed down, without going to trial. They even contributed $100,000 to the cultural education center the Maya Archeological Initiative organization was building. They also removed the offending game from their website. In the end, MAI received a substantial donation, their logo remained in tack, and the international conglomerate salvaged their tarnished image by smoothing the ruffled feathers.

If you find a spot along the rio that is a good viewing area for Toucans or Aracaris, please let us know in the Rio Dulce Chisme Forum. Even better, send us photos and we’ll publish them there. If you happen to see a bright blue toucan that looks even remotely like Toucan Sam, by all means, take a photograph.


Research for this article included information from Traveler’s Wildlife Guides, Belize and Northern Guatemala by Les Beletsky, http://mayaarchaeology.org/category/news/page/3/ of the Maya Archeological Initiative’s website, http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2011/09/02/toucan-smackdown-kelloggs-vs-maya-archaeology-initiative-in-logo-controversy/, Fox News Latino


Screenshot of MAI Logo
Toucan Sam on Froot Loops

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