Free and Low Cost Opportunities to Volunteer Abroad
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Volunteering Abroad with Parrots
by Peggy Deland
volunteer abroad with parrots
Although it is no longer legal to import wild-caught parrots into the United States, the practice of capturing wild parrots remains a serious problem. Widespread habitat destruction from land development is also a major threat to wildlife, and parrots are no exception. Most parrot species are threatened--if not endangered--and a few have become extinct in the last century. By volunteering abroad with an organization dedicated to the reintroduction of parrots to their natural environment, you can help to improve the health of wild parrot populations.

Over the last few decades, aviculturists have made tremendous advances in the science of breeding parrots both for the pet trade and for conservation. In the United States, captive breeding has virtually eliminated the practice of illegally importing wild parrots. Unfortunately, baby parrots continue to be poached from nests and sold as pets in their native countries. Wild-caught parrots tend to make frightened (and often aggressive) pets, a problem compounded by neglect by their owners. When these neglected birds are confiscated by local authorities, organizations like Amigos de las Aves (in Costa Rica) step in to provide care and rehabilitation.

Whenever possible, rehabilitated wild-caught parrots are returned to the wild. This isn't always possible, however, and some become lifelong residents. Some parrots that cannot be released can be bred in captivity, providing a new generation to help replenish the reduced numbers of wild birds. Through captive breeding and release programs, populations of endangered parrots may eventually return to stable levels.

One way that you can help with this goal is by volunteering abroad with an organization dedicated to the plight of wild parrots. These organizations keep hundreds of birds in large outdoor aviaries and are often understaffed. Volunteers typically assist with maintaining the facilities, making handmade bird toys, and preparing fresh foods for the resident parrots.

Caring for large numbers of parrots takes a tremendous amount of work, the bulk of which is often cleaning. Fresh fruit and vegetables must also be chopped, mixed, and served twice a day, and natural perches must be scrubbed and replaced frequently. As a volunteer, you can expect that much of the work you will be asked to perform will be tasks that seem menial but are incredibly important for the health and well-being of the birds.

On the other hand, working with parrots can be an incredible learning experience. In most cases, you will have the opportunity to interact one-on-one with parrots and assist in the rehabilitation of injured and neglected birds. You will also be able to enjoy the lush tropical landscape, view native wildlife up close, and observe the behavior of parrots in the wild. Few sights are as breathtaking as a flock of scarlet or green winged macaws taking flight--especially when you know that your efforts help to make it possible.