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Parrot Welfare Brigades - Flying Towards Freedom

Students in Catacamas after 3 days of classes and visiting homes (arms raised in solidarity with life and wearing "Parrots Fly Free" wrist bands)

Every year since 2013 I have been teaching the veterinary and natural resources students at the National Agriculture University in Catacamas, Honduras. Two years ago I suggested a project I call the Welfare Brigades (Brigadas de Bienestar) and the students and staff flew with it. They had visited 506 homes in the local neighborhoods before I got there, 104 of which had parrots (20.5%). While I was there we visited another 111 homes, 16 of which had parrots (14.4%). Many of these locations had more than one parrot, and several had over a dozen in the larger collections.

Students learning about avian welfare and the need for play and stimulation. Brigadistas make toys to give out to the home owners (photo above and below).

Dr. LoraKim Joyner with staff member of the University, Ing. Juan Pablo Suazo Euceda, as we get ready to accompany the students visiting homes. The Brigades are possible because of Juan Pablo - huge thanks!

Much good can come of these Brigades, but the most important are to:

  • Decrease the suffering of homed parrots in Honduras

  • Decrease the demand through less bird deaths and more awareness/education of home owners

  • Collect data to inform conservation plans

  • Offer training and a chance to contribute to the students

Red-lored amazon in her cage which she never leaves

(photo by Brigadista Dayana Serrano)

There is much anguish and loss amongst most of the homed parrots in Honduras. It's mostly because people just don't know how to take care of their birds. We strive to fix that problem. There is also much loss in the wild population - the macaws are nearly gone and the more attractive amazons (because they talk), such as the yellow-naped amazon, are not far behind.

Sick great green macaw in one collection.

There is no trained veterinary care for birds such as these taken from the wild.

Our goal is to put an end to the illegal wildlife trade so that parrots may fly free for generations to come in Honduras. The Welfare Brigades are helping this happen, though it is still on such a small scale. We will be extending this project to many more homes in Catacamas over the next 2 years, and also to Pt. Lempira in the east. These two communities book end the Moskitia region where there is intense pressure to extract the wildlife, as evidenced by the high percentage of parrots in local homes. This data doesn't even include the number of parrots that have died during capture, transport, trade, and inadequate home situations in the last decade, or the international trade. The loss is devastating, as it has been going on for decades.

Concerned home owner with her two mealy amazons in their cage (both have been barbering their feathers - photo above by Dayana Serrano). The Brigades were able to suggest changes to improve the birds lives, such as letting them out of the cage to wander in the trees around the home (photo below).

We will continue to fight for the well being of parrots in Honduras, and the international community can help. You can financially support our Welfare Brigades, and then also spread the word that extraction of parrots from the wild is unacceptable. To truly change this ethic of extraction and domination over another species, we need an international consensus that parrots do not belong in captivity.

This is not to lay blame or shame on any parrot owners, which is not helpful, but to put forth a vision and dream of freedom. Many people with parrots in their homes, once they realize the damage it does to the birds, or to their own human spirit or relationship with nature, want them to fly free with the greatest autonomy and flourishing possible. The Welfare Brigades work relationally and collaboratively with home owners, just as they would in any country.

One Earth Conservation's vision in our new Freedom Project is a world of co-liberation where people and parrots can escape the chains imposed by a culture of domination and oppression. We have to be able to imagine what that looks like, and this is our objective - to make the vision concrete so that each can choose their path to freedom.

Home owner with two orange-chinned parakeets, showing stress and feather abnormalities. They are in an area where they are exposed to a lot of kitchen smoke, which is not good for them.

Hondurans are undergoing civil unrest after a suspicious electoral process for President in late 2017 that is widely seen as fraudulent. They are taking to the streets to protest the election results this weekend when I am scheduled to fly into the capital city, Tegucigalpa, which I may not be able to do. These people want freedom from corruption, power over politics, and inequality. One Earth stands with them and their parrots, for we know that none are free until all are free.

Won't you fly free with us?

Brigadistas joyful with the nourishing work of caring for parrots (and eating tamales!)

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