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.