O. and I visited the Island Parrot Sanctuary on Kerrera yesterday with three lovely ladies. It was a fantastic trip. Even the weather held up! As we came in, it was cloudy and a bit cool.
Then it warmed up as the sun came out. And… Truly… Clouds or no, Kerrera is a place you never want to leave. The Sanctuary overlooks the picturesque mainland. Everything is green and peaceful, and the air smells country-fresh. The bumpy dirt track road winds in and out of sight. The beach is pristine, dotted with rocks and shells. It’s rarely quiet – the silence punctuated by happy parrots’ calls.
We took Bobo up with us to assess his needs because I’ve been having a particularly difficult time with him.
Yvonne, one of the owners, worked with him as soon as we arrived. She let him out of his carrier, where he had been extremely well-behaved (and quiet) for the two-hour, fifteen minute drive up, and he climbed onto a T-stand, proud as could be. Unconcerned. She befriended and cuddled Bobo, gave him an examination to assess his health, and he was generally sweet with her. But he didn’t like her strong, confident energy. She was matching his own: punchy, and unafraid. If she acted any differently, he would attack immediately.
He wasn’t used to this, and he didn’t like it. At one point, she said that he would challenge and bite her – and he did within the next few minutes, lunging up her shoulder to her ear. She pushed the door shut and gently, quietly restrained him via neck and feet. He is definitely a he, she said, and at the height of hormonal season combined with his own high energy and bold nature, he is a dangerous animal.
She offered him a place at the Sanctuary.
At first, O. and I weren’t sure. We didn’t want to give up on Bobo, or just abandon him.
But… then we toured the aviaries. We were both privileged to go in and work with and around some of the birds. I immediately fell in love with the notion of Bobo having the space and freedom of an aviary over a cage – the way it really should be. Someplace to make real ‘too noise and play in the sun. I knew that he was dangerous when we took him in, and although that is intimidating, I was willing to push through. So what convinced me was when I realised the most beautiful aspect of the Sanctuary: all the birds are encouraged to be birds. They flock, they socialise, they play and eat amazing meals, make big messes, and make lots of noise. Many of them seem minimally dependent on humans, yet they all get personal attention every day. Eighty-plus emotionally (and sometimes physically) damaged parrots living as closely as they can to how they would in the wild. It’s pretty close to heaven on earth.
I came out thinking, My god, these animals should never be pets.
And whilst I know that many – if not most – birds live beautiful lives with their humans, I stand by that thought. You have never seen more vibrantly coloured, happy animals than those fortunate parrots. Every bird should have that. I am painfully aware of how dependent they are on humans, but cockatoos most especially… The Sanctuary tells the tale through its residents of why cockatoos are not pets.
O. and I debated throughout the day. We both felt a couple times like we might go and say that he was coming home. I worried that Bobo would feel abandoned again… But then I remembered that this is absolutely his last home. He’s going to have a cockatoo buddy, an aviary, and will be able to dig in the beach for insects. How awesome is that?
Our decision was well and truly solidified when Bobo was harnessed (this lady is good) and taken outside. Instead of reacting fearfully, he was perfectly confident – a little unsure at first, but not really fazed. She took him to visit the quartet fondly known as the Scary ‘Toos. These four beautiful male cockatoos have formed a close family unit. They are also amongst the most dangerous and damaged birds there. Bobo won’t be living with them, as Yvonne assured us that he would hurt them. Bobo acted completely fearless. Why did that reaction close our decision? Because it was just final proof of how dangerous he is.
So we said our goodbyes and left him in the very capable hands of the Sanctuary.
I have to admit… I am feeling selfishly sad. It was strange not to have to creep around in the dark last night after 9pm, or wave bye-bye to Bobo at bedtime. I’m comforted knowing that he is going to live like a king… well, like a bird. We made the right decision for him, however hard it was to leave him.
The trip wasn’t all so bittersweet, though. I loved working in the Disabled Greys’ aviary. Even though there are many heart-breaking sights, you can’t help but feel positive. There isn’t a negative thought to be had when you’re around such great people and animals. And although I learnt so much, I feel like one can never learn enough!
If you can donate your time, or have the funds to make a toy, parrot-accessory, or monetary contribution, this is an amazing charity. They’ve helped us, and now they’re helping Bobo. I can’t thank them enough. It is a huge relief to know that he is somewhere that can handle his tantrums and make him happy.
I’ve put up a second post featuring some of the Sanctuary residents here, but in the meantime, here’s a little teaser: