Tuesday, June 30, 2009

RSCF on the News...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fireworks - A Love Hate Relationship

NewsChannel 5 visited us this morning to interview RSCF director, Dr. Reillo, about fireworks and wildlife. Since we lost a rare red-browed Amazon parrot in January to fireworks (the bird thrashed itself to death on New Year's Eve--neighbors shooting illegal fireworks), we have made it our mission to spread the word regarding the use of illegal fireworks and how this affects wildlife. Every year wild and captive animals are terrorized by public use of illegal fireworks. In Florida, it is illegal to use any fireworks that leave the ground and explode, yet every year these types of materials are bought, sold and used by the general public. The effects on wildlife are devestating, especially in rural areas. Loxahatchee, where we are located, is a rural, agricultural community with a strong equestrian presence. Anyone with livestock or captive animals hates the 4th of July and the ensuing 24-48 hours of exploding mayhem. Horses spook and slam themselves in their stalls, sometimes breaking free and crashing into fences. Many equestrian facilities have to litterally drug their horses during holidays when fireworks will be used, just to make sure they don't harm themselves or others.

For RSCF this is an especially critical issue. We house rare and endangered animals that are wild, not tame. We cannot move them or somehow enclose them during these times. The stress of capture would be the same or worse than the stress of fireworks. We have groups of 1,000 lb. African antelope spread over 20-acres. Exploding fireworks can spook them--luckily they have plenty of room to move about and hide.

It's different for the parrots we work with. Again, these are rare and endangered animals housed as wildlife in large, free-flight aviaries. When, in pitch-darkness, sudden explosions occur, their response is immediate flight--crashing into the walls of their exhibits in the dark. That's how we lost the red-brow in January due to head-trauma.

Let's not forget the toll on humans--every year someone, somewhere, blows off a finger (or worse) lighting illegal fireworks. Is it really worth it?

So, our message is simple. Don't break the law! Use fireworks that are LEGAL and attend community fireworks exhibits that are supervised. Respect your neighbors and the animals they keep. Wildlife has no voice or choice over what humans do. They are the unwitting and innocent victims of our excess and stupidity. It's great to celebrate our country's independance, and municipal fireworks displays are spectacular and fun. Shooting illegal fireworks in your backyard celebrates nothing and the resulting damage to animals and humans far outweighs the momentary thrill.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Animal Planet Star Visits Parrots

Earlier this week RSCF Director, Dr. Paul Reillo, spent the day filming a flock of ferel green-cheek Amazon parrots with Animal Planet host, Nigel Marven. Nigel has become a great friend of RSCF, and recently traveled to the Caribbean island of Dominica with Dr. Reillo to get a first-hand look at our conservation field programs and tour the "Nature Island".

While in Florida, Nigel gathered research and film footage for an upcoming documentary on exotic wildlife living in Florida. While in the Sunshine State, Nigel traveled to the Everglades to film wild pythons and green iguanas, and finished his trip with a day spent monitoring parrots with RSCF. We'll keep you posted regarding film release dates!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Feathered Fugitives...

Here they are...the two baby green-cheeked Amazon parrots stolen from thier nest last week. Had to snap this quickly, the camera freaked them out. They are doing well, starting to eat corn and some seed. Almost fully feathered--still have wing and tail feathers to come. They have adjusted to their new surroundings, and we are hoping to get them up and flying as fast as we can. Trying to handle them as little as possible so they stay as "wild" as possible. The good news--both now bite like crazy and hate people. Perfect.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It has been a crazy few days, folks. Began last Thursday when RSCF staff visited a local feral population of green-cheek Amazon parrots. These birds are originally from Mexico, and are now endangered. The wild population in Florida is derived from escaped imports dating back to the 1940s. These birds are now an important group, one of the largest wild populations left. We (RSCF) have been studying this group for years, filming within nest cavities using a telescoping camera probe, banding babies, etc. We estimate up to 200 birds may be in this group. Every year we monitor nest cavities, which are in Australian pine trees. Last Thursday we discovered one of the active nests (had two babies in it) was empty...with a wire trap in the tree. The babies had been poached (stolen from the nest). WHAT A MESS! The trap was well-made, the thief obviously has done this before. Devestating loss to the flock and the police were called, reports made, and eventually the story hit the local press. We've been on the phone ever since.

Monday we got a call from a local pet shop--they had the babies. Someone tried to sell them to the shop, but the owners knew better and refused to buy them. Faced with the prospect of having to care for wild, baby parrots no one would buy, the thief simply left them at the pet shop, and then the owners contacted us. So, the happy ending is that we have the babies--tired, skinny and hungry. They are not fully flighted and cannot eat seed yet. We are hand-feeding them three times a day. We hope to rehabilitate them quickly (within a month or so) so we can return them to the flock before they leave the area (usually around the end of July). If we miss that window they will have to remain in captivity until the flock returns next year to breed (usually around April).

It breaks my heart to see these birds in a cage, and I am so disgusted by the entire event. Why must we constantly try to put a dollar value on wildlife? If the pet shop owners hadn't been decent, understanding people, these birds would have spent their lives trapped in a cage, miserable. What gives humans the right to take wild animals of any kind and force them into a life imprisoned for our amusement? Why can't we appreciate wildlife as it is naturally? I can tell you from personal experience, nothing compares to seeing a parrot in full flight, in the forest, screaming its lungs out as it flies FREE. I can only hope that humans can learn to appreciate wild animals in wild places, not in cages and pens, not as PERSONAL PROPERTY.

These babies have a chance now, we will do all we can to get them fat, happy and FLYING with the flock as soon as possible. We'll keep you posted...