There has been great loss in parrot life and populations inflicted by humans. For thousands of years people have captured parrots for home and for trade. In recent decades, the harm has escalated to the point that more than a third of all parrot species (nearly 400) are endangered, over 50% have declining populations (that we know of), and entire native regions are devoid of species that humans favor. Habitat degradation compounds the problem. How are we going to replenish our parrot populations? Can we do it through reparations?
Scarred, rescued scarlet macaws in Honduras. They are now flying free, but just barely escaped a life captivity
Reparations is replenishment of a previously inflicted loss. Reparations in the human realm often come in the form of apologies, financial awards, and land, and have been awarded to indigenous people, Holocaust survivors, abused women, and those wrongfully imprisoned or harmed. Currently in North America we have a lively discussion now about reparations for African Americans who are descendants of slaves. Part of this process is deciding who "pays" for the loss and who gets "paid," especially if there are no living survivors.
It is possible that governments can take responsibility to lead the way in reparations. For instance, where once there was a million Puerto Rican parrots when Columbus arrived, by the 1970's there were only 13. Since then, despite devastating hurricanes, there are approximately 500 on the island. United States taxpayers funded this recovery through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Puerto Rican Department of Natural Resources. It is a remarkable story of partial replenishment. In other scenarios, individuals and nonprofit organizations seek to restore what once was so plentiful.
Though there are stories of encouraging success, the majority of parrots are in real trouble, with no one in sight who can repair the damage done. But there are millions of people who could, you, or someone you know.
I suggest that anyone who has ever had a parrot or enjoyed one in captivity rise up to repair the very broken relationships between human and bird. If you'd like to know why, follow the chains of the trade, if you have a parrot in your home, it might be directly taken from the wild, but most likely, her or his ancestors were wrongfully removed from their homes, often shipped thousands of miles away, many perishing on the perilous journey or soon afterwards.
Every parrot in every home is linked back to the devastating trade. This fact might elicit some shame or anger, but mostly it is a statement of hope. By admitting the linkages between the beauty we love in the form of the parrot, and the great harm linked to it, we open our hearts to the possibility of reparrotions (reparations).
If every person who has a bird now in captivity give one US$ to parrot conservation, we could raise 320 million from the top 12 countries who have pet birds. If we did this every year, along with a promise to not buy another bird, but only take rescue birds into our homes, the earth's parrot populations would be restored, as well as our spirits in knowing that we had done all we could.
Be part of reparrotations. Donate to parrot conservation today.