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Indonesian Parrot Project

Project update: Monday, 4 May 2009
By and

First , let us introduce ourselves. We are Bonnie Zimmermann (Vice-President) and Stewart Metz

(Director and CEO) of the Indonesian Parrot Project [ "IPP"; www.indonesian-parrot-project.org ] , formerly called Project Bird Watch. For the most part, we will be writing this blog together .[ Say anything else here about IPP? I assume that PI will insert the short "Mission" stuff I wrote as requested.]

Eclectus Parrot - before © Photo: Boonie & Stewart

© Photo: Bonnie & Stewart" width="252" height="188"/>

Eclectus Parrot - after © Photo: Bonnie & Stewart

One of our projects designed to help conserve the endangered cockatoos, lories, and parrots of Indonesia, was to build a parrot rehabilitation center on the northern part of Seram Island, in the “Moluccas” (now called the Provinces of Maluku). This is the homeland for the Salmon-crested cockatoo ( usually called the Seram cockatoo nowadays. The Center is named Kembali Bebas [Indonesian for "Return to Freedom"] because those birds who meet the rigorous standards for release back into the wild, proposed by the World Conservation Union [IUCN] and the Convention in Trade of Endangered Species [CITES] and whose original provenance was Seram, are returned to their forest homes. However, some of the birds, who cannot be returned to the wild [due to injury] ; having been kept as companion birds previously; or who represent species not endemic to Seram ] , presumably would spend the rest of their lives in captivity in the “Sanctuary” section . There is controversay about both types of approaches.

Whether such releases are ethical, cost-effective, or even effective at all, is a hotly debated area, which we would like to discuss in a later blog. However, to do so, perhaps requires raising a another difficult question, namely: what importance , if any, should be given as a primary consideration to improving the welfare of the parrots as individuals. None of the position papers of IUCN or CITES suggest that this should be one of the primary goals , although they appropriately cite the possible dangers which face such parrots after release [predators, starvation, disease, etc] as caveats. Yet it is our experience, and that of others, that the treatment given to these birds in other hands [namely, the trappers, smuggling, and the government officials] is at best incompetent and at worst abusive torture). Disposition to centers such as KB appears to be markedly better for the individual birds.

Euthanasia is often suggested but in Indonesia, permission to euthanize an animal is rather tedious (requiring two veterinarians and a government official signing off on it, and usually requires that the animal not be salvageable ) . This may reflect the seemingly higher regard for animal protection (ironically) in the Islamic faith than in its Judeo-Christian counterparts.

So, we at IPP feel that the disposition for our population of parrots should include a primary consideration of improving their quality of life, even if their release involves some unforeseen chance of death. After all, that is the normal daily risk of wild parrots . But then, what about the Sanctuary birds who cannot be released? Will they just be “warehoused” there , essentially for the rest of their lives, albeit under much improved conditions ? If so, can there ever be a consideration of releasing back into the wild , carefully selected wild birds which had been converted into pet birds for various periods of time , albeit after a much prolonged period of rehabilitation? This idea is heretical , perhaps; however, it rarely has been subjected to direct examination [more on this next time]. We have no plans to attempt this , but have not dismissed the idea out-of-hand either.

We’ll discuss these two issues in future blogs, focusing on the actual releases and outcomes. But first: What sayest thou about releasing wild but poached parrots? …about releasing former pets?

Sampai nanti (“Until later”, in Indonesian).

Bonnie & Stewart

blogs from the field - parrot conservation in real time