14 July 2016

WELFARE - Parrot Plight in BC

(Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary)
The plight of the 600-plus parrots who have called the World Parrot Refuge (WPR) in Coombs, Vancouver Island, home continues.

The overburdened facility lost their founder, Wendy Huntbatch, to cancer in February, resulting in the accelerated deterioration of the health, well-being and of course, the future of the birds.

Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary of Vancouver, B.C. stepped in over a month ago to assist the situation, pouring their own reserves into caring for the birds, re-homing them - including temporary housing at the Nanaimo SPCA’s former location – and foster homes, and ensuring the birds receive the veterinary care needed.

“Many of us watched this unfold over the years and we were unable to do anything about it (until now),” said John Creviston, who was recently brought in by Greyhaven as an interim manager to assist with the WPR crisis, which he describes as a situation of ‘good intentions that went too far’.

Creviston, whose own background in animal welfare includes working as a zookeeper at the Calgary Zoo, as a curator at the Crystal Garden Conservation Centre, with SPCAs and other conservation groups, said at present time the main focus of Greyhaven’s efforts for the WPR birds is to ensure all the birds are in safe interim housing by Aug. 1, 2016 – when the landowner wishes the facility to be free and clear of the birds.

Huntbatch did not seek to re-home parrots she took in her refuge and rather, kept them in her own care. Creviston said at one point, he observed over 800 birds in the facility, many of which were very large birds who developed issues including self-mutilation and aggression – induced by stress and anxiety resulting from boredom or being without human contact.

Parrots are highly intelligent birds. In fact, a recent study shows the bird brain is more sophisticated than the human brain.

They bond very closely with humans and do not function well in captivity if they don’t receive a lot of human contact. With life expectancy reaching as high as 100 for some species, the average parrot will have some seven owners in their lifetime.

While the greater Vancouver and Vancouver Island bird-loving communities have stepped up to assist with cage and food donations, there is still much work to do – including ensuring the once-19 and now seven remaining WPR staff receive the support to get through this period of difficulty.

“There’s grief involved for them and they are trying to do the best they can under the circumstances…sometimes that gets lost in the telling of the story,” said Creviston, who is committed to making sure the WPR staff and volunteers feel supported and understood during this transition period.

“I want them to understand they are not alone.”

Greyhaven continues to seek donations in any way people are able, as their reserves and resources continue to be exhausted by the massive undertaking of caring for the birds at the WPR; they are also beginning to screen their list of potential adoptive bird parents and are working to reunite some of the WPR birds with former owners.

The Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary is a non-profit society, reliant on donations and volunteers. Without throwing the WPR crisis into the mix, the Vancouver-based sanctuary has an average intake of 200 birds annually.

As more birds continue to pour into the marketplace, the constraints on Greyhaven continue to mount and they are currently seeking a new sanctuary.

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

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