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Parrot Pilgrimage to Suriname

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

Dock entrance welcoming you to Kalebaskreek

The village Kalebaskreek is a lovely riverside community along the Coppename River in Suriname. I visited there in November of 2021 to see if they would be interested in protecting parrots. This would mean ending the legal trapping of wild parrots there for the bird trade. The hope is that economic opportunities for the people through ecological and scientific tourism will supplant any loss that occurs from protecting their parrots. If they decide to go forward, everyone wins – the birds, the villagers, and the people who come to visit.

The entrance to Batavia, a short distance from Kalebaskreek Village

The shrines and meeting place at Batavia

They already have a tourist destination close to the village called Batavia. It is a former cocoa plantation, military post, and leper colony, and has recently been redeveloped as a place of pilgrimage. It promotes not just a serene meditative atmosphere - because of the religious icons, statues, and buildings present there - but it is also a place of wonder since it is a roosting, nesting, and foraging site for parrots. I was only there for a couple of hours, and every moment was full of parrot calls and behavioral observations.

Red-bellied macaws investigating a nest cavity at Batavia

Blue-and-yellow macaws both roost and nest here, and also forage for food nearby

I was also drawn to this location, because it is where Father Petrus Donders worked and died. He was a catholic priest who, in the mid 1800’s, served the local Indigenous people who suffered from leprosy and other ailments. He kept on striving to help others even though he had many rejections in his life. As a young man, he wanted to be a priest, but didn’t have money to go to school, so he served as a servant to seminarians instead. He was deemed unfit for military service, and was not allowed to join the Redemptionists, Jesuits, and Franciscans. Finally, a benefactor helped him attend theology school and, because of his zeal and passion, was accepted for the Dutch Suriname mission. There he served from 1842 until his death in 1889. A little less than a century later he was beatified by the Pope John Paul II. Originally buried at Batavia, Father Donders' remains were later removed to the beautiful Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral in the capital city of Paramaribo.

Mural on a building at Batavia of Father Petrus Donders

Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral where Father Petrus Donders is entombed

When the current Covid-19 pandemic eases, I recommend that we undertake a parrot pilgrimage to Suriname, to see the church, the village, and Batavia, now graced with wild parrots. If we go, we can help support the village so that they can keep their wildlife safe. Even at this marvelous location, where so many people have been served, the parrots are still taken from the wild to be kept and/or sold as pets, both domestically and internationally.

Perched on a monument at Batavia, this young injured blue-and-yellow macaw also serves as a reminder of the need to care for life. Her wing was broken when a nest was chopped down to capture macaw chicks for pets

Let us journey there, if not in person, then in spirit, so that we can serve both the people and parrots of Suriname.

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