On any given day you’d find Wendy Huntbatch and Horst Neumann within wingspan of their parrots. Taking the birds to work with them and home again at night was a cherished routine. In 1993 a robbery abruptly ended that when 4 of their six birds were stolen. “One of them I’d actually hatched out of the eggshell myself.”, recalls Wendy. The bird loving couple was devastated and the course of their lives forever changed.
Wendy racked up phone bills calling vets and pet stores across Canada giving them info about their birds, hoping beyond reason that they’d show up somewhere. She also scoured newspaper and internet ads for parrots for sale.
Through one such ad she eventually found Rio – their green winged Macaw – though he was in very poor health. Sadly, despite the fact that his mate was left safely behind the night of the robbery, she ended up dying of shock and depression within a year at the loss of her companion.
During their agonizing search Wendy and Horst started receiving calls from people who had parrots and couldn’t or wouldn’t keep them any longer. Within weeks they had 15 birds of the parrot family in their care and serendipitously the World Parrot Refuge (WPR) was born.
Flash forward 18 years and the WPR is a burgeoning home to over 800 birds of at least 70 species, most of which are wild caught or 1st generation captive birds. “Right now I’m looking at an 11 month old African Grey who came in 3 weeks ago, a divorce situation, … for every bird I have here there’s a legitimate reason in the eyes of the people that bring them.” , remarks Huntbatch. Quite often refuge staff doesn’t even get forewarning, people just show up with birds in various states of health from as far as Nova Scotia in Canada, and Southern Florida in the US.
Located in Coombs BC, the refuge is a home for life for parrots. The staff and volunteers make every effort for it to be the best home the birds have known. With a floor area nearly half the size of a (European) soccer field, the facility’s 23000 square feet is adorned with tree branches, colourful toys and bells.
Lengthy life expectancies of parrots means that for at least the next 75 years Wendy and her team will be very busy providing for their flock. Though they’re happy to do so, finances are an ongoing challenge. “The cost of supporting what ever it is you do is overwhelming… And without money we can’t do what we do… Everything has just become so difficult to do.”
But serendipity has struck again and help is in flight for Wendy’s birds. It started with a surprise recording session orchestrated by my friend Sora. On Oct 15th she and I recorded Wings In Flight a song that we’d co-written years ago. On Oct 18th my fiancé and I happened to be driving down the Alberni highway right past the WPR and decided to stop in. How amazingly auspicious that Wings In Flight is all about birds, and I’m a BIG bird lover. While at the WPR I was struck by the sense that our song is meant to help here. Upon my return from the trip I spoke with Sora about the concept. She agreed and plans for a WPR donation event began.
From January 16th to 30th Sora and I will donate 10% of net proceeds from each download purchase of our new single Wings In Flight to The World Parrot Refuge.
When I phoned Wendy to tell her the news she exclaimed, “I’m really excited about this, I think it’s amazing, and we can put that money towards outside flight for the birds.” Little did I know that she and her staff had been trying to raise funds to build 9 exterior flights for the refuge. “We wanted people to donate towards outside flight for the birds, so they could be outside in the summer and ‘Give them wings’ was the slogan…They need all the daylight they can get to so that their bodies can metabolize vitamins A and D from their food.”
You can help give wings to over 800 birds by purchasing a download of Wings In Flight between January 16th and 30th. Just before hanging up Wendy said, “The title of the song is so perfect too…It’s really meant to be isn’t it.” I feel she’s right. Event details are at worldparrotrefuge.org. Wings In Flight is available for 99 cents at iTunes and CD Baby.
© Cindy O’Neil
Published in January 2012
edition of Walden Today
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