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Shelter provides home for abandoned parrots 20070809/parrot_shelter_070809/20070809?hub=CanadaAM

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Aug. 9 2007 News Staff

While parrots are increasingly becoming popular and attractive pets, owners may not be entirely prepared for what they are signing up for, according to the owner of a British Columbia parrot shelter.

According to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, the ownership of pet birds in the United States quadrupled in the 1990s.

Additionally, the Journal of the American Veterinarian Medical Association estimates that the pet bird population will continue to grow at a rate of 5 per cent.

Wendy Hunbatch runs the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs, B.C. where she oversees the care of more than 500 birds. The centre also functions as an educational facility for the birds.

Hunbatch said that neglect and abandonment of the birds is often not intentional. She said that people are often initially entranced by the birds and their ability to speak but soon become preoccupied and can no longer provide adequate care for the birds.

"With a parrot, you have this person or living being who is totally dependent upon you as much day one as year 70. Humanity just can't adapt to that process," Hunbatch told CTV's Canada AM.

Hunbatch said that humans can also underestimate the significance of the lifespan of parrots. Parrots may live anywhere between 40 and 90 years old.

Many owners of the birds may obtain the pets because of their long lifespans in comparison to those of pets such as cats or dogs. But these birds will often live as long or outlast their owners, whose ability to look after the birds may deteriorate because of their advanced age.

As a result, parrots are often vulnerable to being abandoned. Parrots are also desirable and expensive, making them a hot commodity in the exotic animal trade, a practice Hunbatch is campaigning against in Canada. Meanwhile, Hunbatch is also concentrating her efforts on creating a desirable habitat for the birds under her care.

"What we decided to do was to open a facility where we would give parrots a home for life," Hunbatch said. "Because parrots are a prey species, they travel in flocks. For them it's dreadful to be separated from family or flock and dumped onto someone else and have to start all over again. It's really, really hard on a parrot because they're highly intelligent living beings and for them it's like an abandonment feeling."

Parrots that have been deprived of the social interaction they crave or are virtually confined to their cages often begin to self-mutilate, plucking at feathers and their flesh. It's a sight that Hunbatch does not seek to conceal at the World Parrot Refuge.

"We're not a zoo," Hunbatch said. "We want people to understand this is what happens to birds that are away from their natural environment and their natural diet. Because try as we might -- and we give them a huge variety diet -- it's not the diet that each and every parrot should have in their home environment."

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