In a lush green setting in East End, a dozen Cayman parrots are being rehabilitated, ready to be returned to the wild.
On Monday, two of the rescued birds at the Cayman Parrot Sanctuary took tentative steps out of a large holding cage and, with a little bit of coaxing, took flight. A third bird, also scheduled for release on Monday, was a little more reticent and didn’t emerge and fly off until late Tuesday morning.
Ron Hargrave, owner of Tukka Restaurant, just down the street from the sanctuary, said he was compelled to create a home for the injured, neglected or abandoned birds on land he had purchased in East End.
“It come about through a love of parrots that I have back in Australia,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do some good for our native Cayman parrots here in Cayman. I bought this place a couple of years ago and realised the foliage and fauna and everything that was here was very indigenous to Cayman and was helpful to the birds as we have most of their natural food here on the property.
“So, with that, I approached the Department of Environment in regards to being able to help, and that’s how the parrot sanctuary came about.”
Hargrave said the sanctuary currently has 12 parrots that had been injured from falling out of nests or being hit by cars “or just needing a good start to life”.
The recently opened sanctuary made its first releases this week, with the three birds returning to the wild. Hargrave and Jane Haakonsson, a research officer with the Department of Environment, supervised the release.
Haakonsson is involved in the ongoing amnesty for the registration of pet Cayman parrots. It is illegal to keep the birds, but there are dozens in captivity throughout the islands. The DoE opted to give those parrot owners a chance to register the birds, rather than confiscating them. So far, more than 90 people have registered their birds in the six-month amnesty which ends on 29 Feb. 2020.
Haakonsson said on Monday that the DoE welcomed the new bird sanctuary.
“These animals are susceptible to [being hit by] cars; we have people shooting them; they have injuries, just like any natural population would. The problem has always been, from a departmental standpoint, finding a place to rehabilitate these birds and what’s going to happen when they go back into the wild,” she said.
She added that the sanctuary gives the birds a better chance of a successful release, as parrots that were previously fed in cages are taught what natural foods to eat and how to be wild birds again.
“Birds that have been poached, that have been robbed as fledglings from the nest, will typically need to be raised by hand and sometimes they’re not always suitable for release because they imprint on the parents, which, in this case, will be a human being, which is not ideal at all,” she said.
She added that the parrot sanctuary is “revolutionary” as it allows the DoE to quarantine captive birds and carry out indepth health checks on them before they are released.
She advised people who are thinking of releasing their pet birds, not to do it themselves, but to contact the DoE instead.
To register a parrot or to report an injured bird, call the DoE on 949-8469 or email [email protected]