Updated: Feb 11
As part of parrot conservation efforts, we often include formal education and awareness programs, such as visiting schools and distributing materials. Sometimes the simplest, and often most impactful, method is to be in relation with the children while you are doing conservation work. Below are some of the young conservationists with whom I had the honor to interact during my May visit to our parrot conservation project in La Moskitia, Honduras.
Part of our conservation work includes staffing a rescue center where wild parrots are brought to be cared for, and ultimately released. Anayda Panting (above), the Director, feeds the many chicks with her ever-present helpers and learners. They also help feed the older birds (below).
The children also start learning veterinary medicine at young ages. Above is Ireni, who is only twelve-years-old, helping us examine a yellow-naped amazon parrot to see if the bird can be liberated soon. Helpers are also sometimes even much younger (below).
Unfortunately, sometimes the birds we care for die, such as this fledgling olive-throated parakeet who just fell from the sky, apparently injured by a hawk. The young bird was hurt badly and didn't survive long. So I asked the children if they would help me bury the bird, and they participated with a resounding "Si!" It didn't take much input on my part for them to care for the bird in death, as they do in life.
A big part of conservation work is communication, and in this village, one place to use one's cell phone is to stand on a stump in the middle of the village. I go a couple of times a day and always have company when I do so. I often have to share the trunk with the children who can crowd me out, as below.
When possible, we invite children to accompany us when we climb up to parrot nests to check on the birds' health. Here are our helpers gathered after we climbed an active scarlet macaw nest that was in the center of the village.
Conservation work also involves maintaining equipment and vehicles, and the children are ever present, learning as we work - sometimes even children of other species!
Besides monitoring and protecting nests, we also conduct parrot population counts, in which we involve the children every year.
At the end of this count, we distributed "Fly Free Parrot" wrist bands written in Spanish and Miskitu. The group picture turned into a game to see if we could imitate calls from the parrots they are saving. Pretending we are birds helps us empathize with them, and so when we can, we ask, "What Does the Parrot Say?" And I ask of you dear reader, what do these children say to you?