Of Parrots and People

by Mira Tweti

The subtitle of this book is The Sometimes Funny, Always Fascinating, and Often Catastrophic Collision of Two Intelligent Species. I didn\’t find much funny in it. I was often wowed by descriptions of the mental abilities of these birds, far more often dismayed at descriptions of the terrible ways we have treated them, coveting ownership for their beauty, smarts and ability to speak. Tweti\’s chapters detail some really intriguing examples of their mental acuity, the deep attachment they often make to individual people and the crisis of unwanted birds flooding parrot rescue facilities, many of which eventually fold from lack of funds and way too many birds coming in. So many parrots dumped by their owners because the birds are too demanding, scream incessantly, make a mess. When cooped up in cages, bored or constantly ignored, they often exhibit self-mutilating behavior and suffer mentally and physically. Most of the book is about logistics on how things got this way: the parrot trade. How it became outlawed in many countries because the birds faced extinction, so now they are smuggled or bred in captivity instead. Parent birds in breeding facilities kept in atrocious conditions, and the babies are taken from them and transported to pet stores way too young. So many birds die in trapping and smuggling operations, for every one that makes it alive into a home as a pet. Confiscated birds that were smuggled fare little better- at least they are kept clean, but they often do not see the light of day for years while waiting an outcome. The author got an inside look into several rescue places, a breeding facility, and visited Mexico pretending to be a tourist interested in buying a parrot. Appalled at what she found. Later travelled to a zoo where some very rare parrots were being kept in hopes of producing a breeding population, and went to South America to visit the forests where parrots are being illegally trapped. Most uplifting were the final chapters, which tell of a private conservation group set up by one individual who wanted to save habitat for parrots in his country. All of this in way more detail than I had ever imagined, and much of it made me feel very sad. I am strongly impressed, after reading this book, that for most people parrots do not make good pets, they do not belong in cages, and to our shame, any intersection they have had with mankind has been to their detriment.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5             317 pages, 208

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