Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Refuge seeks volunteers

Parrots are loud, demanding, messy and loveable.Which makes them similar to a two-year-old child, only they never grow up, according to John Seeland, the marketing director for World Parrot Refuge, near Coombs.

The parrot refuge is home to around 450 of the exotic birds and it can get a bit deafening in the large barn-like buildings the birds occupy. Imagine that may toddlers in a room."We give away complimentary earplugs," Seeland says, laughing.The birds even play with the same brightly coloured, plastic toys a child would."[Parrots] are very, very intelligent," Seeland says. "Basically, they dissemble things. The [toys] they really like they'll destroy."He says the toys are just as important to the birds as food and water. Without them, the birds get bored and stressed - and than start pulling out their feathers.

The facility goes through a lot of toys and would be glad to have people clean out their basements or garages and pass unused toys along."Parrots would love to have them to play with," Seeland says.Most people wouldn't think of parrots as cuddly in the way they would about dog or cat. But parrots actually need physical attention.The resident escaping parrot, Charlie, likes to wander around until he's picked up and petted. Once picked up, he'll often say "Love Charlie, love Charlie."Other parrots need the physical attention to help rehabilitate them if they have come from a bad home or are in distress.Oscar, who is starting to grow back his feathers, wouldn't let anyone touch him. Seeland spent many hours working with the bird, which now sits on his shoulder and says "hello" in a quiet voice.

The parrot refuge, which has been open since June, needs more volunteers willing to take time to love the birds."It doesn't take a lot of training to shower love on a bird," says Seeland.Volunteers to conduct tours of the facility for visitors are also needed."You need to know what you're talking about," Seeland says.

The World Parrot Refuge is hosting volunteer seminars Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 to show interested people what the facility is about - and what they are getting themselves into.You don't need to know anything about parrots, but you do have to have an interest in them. The seminars will cover parrot food preparation; show off the birds; explain what the facility does; show parrot-holding techniques and give a tour so those who might consider becoming a tour guide will know what is expected."We'll give them a living example of what a docent [guide] would do and a living example of what auxiliary staff would do," Seeland says. "I want people to see, hands-on, what they'd be doing."The parrots also like music. Seeland, also a musician, plays for the birds, which have their own special way of dancing."They quite enjoyed it," Seeland says. "Musicians can come in and audition for the birds."The birds will decide for themselves if they like the tunes.The Sept. 29 seminar runs from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and the Oct. 1 seminar is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Musicians who want to play at the refuge can come to the Oct. 1 seminar. Both the seminars are at the World Parrot Refuge at 2116 Alberni Highway. Volunteers need to be 16 years old and up.

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