A little more than a year after nearly 600 parrots were rescued from the Coombs World Parrot Refuge and moved to Vancouver from Nanaimo, hundreds of the birds have found new homes.
In a press release issued by Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary, the parrot rescue organization reported that of the 584 birds originally recovered, 190 parrots are still awaiting adoption at a temporary shelter in Vancouver, where they are being cared for by 125 volunteers. Those volunteers feed the birds, make them toys, cuddle and socialize with them.
Jan Robson, Greyhaven communication director, told The NEWS, Greyhaven “honestly didn’t know what to expect as far as timelines.”
“We hoped we would manage to accomplish most (of the adoptions) within a year,” said Robson, adding that the birds that are left are birds that can’t find a home “with the snap of a finger.”
Robson said smaller birds are easier to adopt out, but most of the birds from the World Parrot Refuge were very large, which can be problematic. She also said behaviour and noise can be a challenge when trying to adopt out the birds.
Following the death of founder Wendy Huntbatch in February of 2016, the fate of the World Parrot Refuge was unclear. Robson said volunteers at Greyhaven felt they wouldn’t be able to tackle a rescue of that size. Robson said Greyhaven usually averages about 200 bird rescues per year with the birds coming in gradually.
“We just really felt we couldn’t do it, but then in the same breath it was, ‘Then what?'” Robson said.
Dealing with the birds in the past year, Robson said, has been extremely challenging. She said board members have been putting every spare minute of their time into caring for the birds.
“It was — is — insane, actually,” Robson said. “On the flip side, in my mind, it’s the biggest privilege to care for all these wonderful birds — birds who have lots and lots of reasons to not really like us and they are giving us their trust and they are blossoming and finding loving homes.”
Caring for hundreds of parrots, wages for some paid staff and veterinary fees has left Greyhaven struggling to stay afloat financially, according to the press release.
Robson said the outstanding bill for the Night Owl Bird Hospital is more than $500,000. While that seems like a high number, Robson said it’s about $1,000 per bird which isn’t too bad “considering these are birds that had not had sufficient medical care for quite some time.”
In May 2016, The NEWS reported that the BCSPCA had been to the World Parrot Refuge following Huntbatch’s death, in response to concerns that some birds required veterinary treatment.
Then in June 2016, World Parrot Refuge landowner Horst Neumann said there was infighting with some former staff and an outside group that he said had wanted to shut down the refuge for years. But he said he had an experienced manager in place and the centre was working closely with supportive groups.
It was then that volunteers from Greyhaven showed up to help assess and treat the birds.
As of August 2016, there were no longer any parrots left in the refuge. Since then, Robson said, there has been a mass adoption of all the budgies, several birds were sent to Edmonton to be adopted out, a group of cockatiels were sent to Calgary for end of life care and several parrots were sent to Ontario.
Of the nearly 600 rescues birds, Robson said Greyhaven wasn’t able to save all of the birds. She said several cockatiels were in the worst health, adding they lost about 20 cockatiels with most of them now in long-term palliative care.
Robson said Greyhaven does receive some updates on birds that have been adopted. Some of the birds that were quiet or didn’t like to make eye contact now enjoy being around people and singing.
“It doesn’t mean people aren’t having issues,” she said. “These birds — it’s safe to say some have post-traumatic stress disorder — are also blossoming.
“I know that for a lot of the people in and around the area of the World Parrot refuge, a piece of their heart left when those birds left, but they are doing as well as could possibly be expected and they are loved.”
Robson said Greyhaven is still taking applications for birds to be adopted.
For more information, visit Greyhaven’s webise at www.greyhaven.bc.ca.