Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ants, birds and probably alcohol

Alexandra the anteater has been back and forth between homes and has finally come back to roost at our place. Jerry spends 3 or 4 hours a day in the bush with her, which is inordinately peaceful for me. We also have some super friends who think it’s fun to bring termite nests into our downstairs bathroom where Alexandra lives, and we now have several nests full of termites who are happily exploring our block wall cavities. I sense that 2010 could be the year that the Bug Man cometh.

We had a new bird delivered a few weeks ago: Pepperito the Red Lored. He’s a charmer and toddles into the bedroom in the morning, shimmies up the bedspread and really, really ticks Chili off. I feel like a parent trying to referee the classic combination of ‘jealous child’ vs ‘cheeky wind-up-the-sibling’ child.’ Does anyone know what happens when you bang parrots’ heads together??

The baddest saddest news is that Penelope has been relocated. I wasn’t going to talk about its because I’m not happy about the result, but when she ripped out someone's earring, tearing a new piercing, and ran off down the road trying to remove a small child’s eyes, I figured she was not going to be a good rehab candidate. She is currently holidaying in the zoo: not the ideal choice for her life (no disrespect) but she loved to fly and she enjoyed her freedom – a little too much as it happens… Anyhow, I shan’t dwell on it, it’s better than being in a cooking pot I suppose, which would surely have happened if she had flowed the wrong pair of eyes down the road one day. To appease our guilt, we shall be visiting her with scrambled eggs next week, despite what the signs say about feeding the animals.

We’re also in the process of getting rid of a few horses: we have a friend (who also happens to be the most superb horseman I know) who is short of good riding horses for his trekking company, so Jack and Houdini have gone for a touring holiday for a while. By the way – if you ever want a safe, fascinating horse-trek to Barton Creek Caves or around Pine Ridge, I know just the guy.

It’s been party season in case you hadn’t noticed: my pathetic excuse for having done very little with the birds. Instead, I’ve done my share of “on the bank, in the river”, piƱatas and musical chairs. I even persuaded some poor sap to dress in the Independence sweaty parrot suit for the Humane Society Christmas Afternoon which sacred the life out of some kids to the point where they never want to see a parrot again, let alone own one. Good job!

I have to say, introducing Belizean children to pass-the-parcel (which I find out is a very British game and hasn’t ever really crossed the pond) was not easy: they couldn’t believe the gift was theirs, they kept trying to give the parcel away to their younger siblings, and as for “rip the paper off, quick” - forget it. I suspect they were trying to save the wrapping paper for next year, something I vaguely remember doing before consumerism and a disposable society swept the UK.

So, there endeth the decade. New Year’s Eve afternoon and only a few short hours from the first hangover of the year. In my foolish youth, I recall scoffing at self-employed farmers, bakers, newsagents, milkmen: all those professions I would list as “jobs I would never do” because of the early starts and lack of sick leave. Well, I shall no doubt be up my ladders at stupid-o’-clock tomorrow morning with the rest of the self-employed idiots, feeding my ungrateful charges and wondering how on earth I ended up here.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Double Standards

I have a list of stuff to do that is so long, I’ve decided to do none of it and Blog instead.

What a flippin week – my computer HATES me. I’m still not speaking to it for what it did to me and I’ve turned its speakers off, as no apology will be good enough. Sulk? Me? Hell, yes!

The excellent news is that the leg bands have arrived for our little darlings. Chili is sporting her shiny new bracelet and after the initial indignation, has managed to leave it alone for the most part. She has also decided it helps her to fly and has been experimenting quite a lot. I haven’t had to resort to ladder-rescues yet, but it’s coming.

Speaking of rescues, we were lucky enough (or not, depending on your point of view) to tag along on a wildlife raid this week. They needed our truck to transport what they hoped would be the haul of the decade of illegally captive wildlife. Unfortunately, somebody tipped off the offenders and by the time we got where we were going there was just one anteater, a spinning flip-flop in a cloud of dust, and an empty parrot cage swinging in the breeze. Darn and blast it. We heard that literally 5 minutes before, there was pretty much one of everything you could name, plus half a dozen crocs and several parrots- including a macaw- on display for the tourists. On the bright side, the tourists were told by their tour guides not to interact with the animals, which is great news: the message is getting through.

There’s a moral dilemma for me though. Here you have a bunch of people who’s sole source of income is to show tourists their parrot and ask for money in return for photographs. Is the parrot suffering any more or less than your average ‘pet’ parrot in Belize? You could argue that at least it has the attention of it’s owner and something to occupy its mind during the day. And because it is the owner’s livelihood, it is being cared for – no-one wants a picture of a sickly-looking bird. Of course, you all know if I had my way there would be no captive parrots at all, but for as long as we allow pet birds, what is the difference between one kept for the entertainment of a household, and one destined to make money for their owner? And what do you say to someone when their animal is taken from them because they charged money to display it, and they ask you ‘then how come it’s not free to enter the zoo’?

Hmmm. I could loose sleep over this one – but I probably won’t. The truth is, the majority of these animals are youngsters, caught when they’re cute and docile, and discarded for a younger model once they reach maturity. Apparently the anteater was number 19 on the guy’s list, most likely for this very reason, and one of its forelegs had been dislocated in the past, probably when it was pulled forcibly from its mother. Generally speaking, its a filthy business and it doesn’t benefit Belize in any way. And of course, there’s the health issues: in this litigious society, Belize’s tourism industry can’t afford to be responsible for an American tourist contracting rabies, or some child’s finger being removed by an angry macaw.

I shall now go and put flight-enhancers on the rest of MY birds, from which I derive tremendous pleasure, and have started the rocky road of fund-raising to support. How does that make me different from the aforementioned profiteers? Well, I get people to give me money and then tell them they can’t look at the parrot! Good wheeze, eh?