Parrots: You either love them or fear them. For a lot of people, there’s no real in-between. At least, that has been our experience seeing people volunteer and intern with us and having to learn how to work with and around these noisy, intelligent, and long-living animals.
As a rescue facility, we work directly with cases that deal with private home pet confiscations and illegal pet trade seizures. Two issues that are surprisingly still a big issue in Costa Rica, a place that prides itself on sustainability and conservation. Although, this is expected considering keeping a wild-caught bird has been a part of Costa Rican culture for generations. It wasn’t until this past decade that governing agencies such as the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) decided to make it against the law to harbor any native wildlife as a domestic pet. This law was a huge step in preventing poaching and other invasive activities, however, what about all the parrots already being kept as pets in people’s homes?
Now, keeping that parrot you inherited from grandpa, a 20-year-old Yellow-naped amazon named Lori is illegal. And by law, wildlife police can come and confiscate the bird, and consequently, you can be fined. That’s a problem and this is where the work of Toucan Rescue Ranch steps in.
Toucan Rescue Ranch, because of this law and thanks to younger generations surrendering these unwanted pets, has resulted in places like us becoming inundated by non-releasable parrots. This is in large part why Toucan Rescue Ranch provides sanctuary to 77 parrots, mostly comprising of the endangered yellow-naped amazon and less threatened Red-lored parrot. These parrots are all directly from the pet trade and more indirectly from this new law. Sadly, these animals are highly domesticated, coming to us knowing words, living on very poor diets, and in no condition to be a candidate for rewilding.
So where do we go from here?
Due to this large population of permanent residents, Toucan Rescue Ranch is doing a few things to help these displaced birds. First, we ensure they are provided a forever home with us, giving them professional care, premier diets, enrich their lives with toys and stimulus, and give them large outdoor enclosures with others. As highly social animals, we introduce them together to join bonds with one another, which for many, is the first time they get to socialize and be with their kind.
Beyond that, many become important educational ambassadors for their species. We have a small collection of permanent residents that are a part of our Educational Walks. As a part of our conversation with guests, we teach them about the plight of these species and ways to prevent the illegal pet trade, and the type of high-quality care it requires to keep a parrot happy in captivity. By doing this, we hope to start conversations for people to keep these animals in their wild homes, talk to their loved ones about what it means to have these animals as pets (and perhaps advise against it) and the issues that places like Costa Rica face due to this unsustainable demand.
Finally, to bring together Toucan Rescue Ranch’s approach to not only providing the best care but also contributing to these animals’ awareness and education is why we created the symbolic adoption program: Parrot Oasis!
Parrot Oasis is an extension of our existing Symbolic Adoption Program. With the help of a devoted intern, we established a unique program highlighting the cooky characters of some of TRR’s oldest and most charismatic residents! It is a program where, for a very small donation, you will contribute to the overall and ongoing care of your favorite bird. And, to tailor the program to these birds’ colorful personalities, we named them after some of your favorite Looney Tune characters! Plus, in return, you get a digitally downloadable package with bookmarks, an info poster, photos, and more!
So, what are you waiting for! Maybe become one of those people who LOVE parrots, not fear them. Get to know one in our care and help with its continuing love and care.
About the writer: Zara Palmer, is the Marketing Manager and Fundraiser/Education Supervisor. She is responsible for marketing and communications strategies, as well as the overall branding and image of the non-profit. She prepares annual marketing plans, creates campaigns and events, and analyzes the market and competitors. She also supervises the Education Center and its functions as well as the tourism sector of Toucan Rescue Ranch.