Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grey skies are going to clear up....

I have been told to write a happy post to cover up that last one.
Well, if I must.

Last week I collected a parakeet from a neighbour. She heard squawking and found the poor little chap rolling around in the dirt battling with a chicken. I know from experience that parakeets are ballsy, but that's ridiculous.
I gave it two days of r&r and copious quantities of food, after which time I realised it wasn't eating and was getting thinner and thinner. Plan B: the baby food worked beautifully. Okay, so it's a baby. One of the first of the year I should say. It has full plumage and flies pretty well now that it's nourished, so the parents must have nested around early February. He's just started eating papaya - stage 2 - so we should have a releasable bird within a week or two.

You know about our pigeon - Jerry's legacy to me before he left for foreign shores. If we were in the UK we would probably be pilloried for raising a sky-rat, but we're not, so we raised it, and now we don't dare release it as it will certainly end up as pie.

My possum trap has captured yet more rats and the same ferrel cat twice now (last chance buddy), but no possums. They are still around - there's chewing and spitting and smelly evidence everywhere, but I guess it can't be bothered to wait in the trap queue.

And you know about all the sex, right? No - well gather round... First at it were Bibi and Daphne. Unfortunately, they are a red lored and a white fronted. It's a bit like a staunch PUP shacking up with a UDP activist: it can be done, but it's not a pretty sight. Next were Chac and Chell, except Chac is cheating on Chell with Prico, even though Prico has her eyes closed most of the time and has no idea what is going on. Michael is loved up with Nigel, even though Nigel is only one year old and thinks Michale is just playing. (The less said about that relationship, the better.) Iran is naturally ticked off that his brother is getting some and he isn't, but I guess that's the same in a lot of families (BTW, Omer, if you're reading this, I have the names the wrong way around, but I'm too old to change now) And the two remaining white-fronted boys are so jealous of everyone, that the minute they hear any sex-noises, they bounce around them trying to ruin the moment. As you can imagine I spend an awful lot of time being a voyeur.

There's also a one-way valve in the aviary somewhere. It's about the size of a cat-bird, and it lets them in, but not out. I have one smart bird that knows the secret human-operated release door will be open for 10 minutes in the morning, and he hops straight out of it. The others leap about wondering how he got out, and I arrive back at the aviary next day to find him back in there again. I have my suspicions he is like the child-catcher: he lures the unsuspecting birds through the gap in the wire, closes it behind him trapping his prey, and then exits courtesy of the kind human to do it all over again tomorrow. I now have no less than 5 cat birds in there. Nothing else. Go figure.

I shall end my happy post with my familiar chorus: "Don't forget Geoff"!! He's traveled 116 miles so far, leaving 358 miles to go. His bum is sore and he's fitter than ever, and we're now only $8355 short of an aviary (is that like 2 sandwiches short of a picnic??). Geoff is my hero!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Eeyore meets Victor Meldrew

My friend really depressed me out today. She would be upset if she knew this, but she’s far to busy to read this missive, so she’ll never know.
And it’s not as if she told me something that deep-down I didn’t already know. But when someone actually puts it into words – well, it’s depressing.
She caught me on the way back from looking at a release site for our pigeon near Salvapan (an enclave of Belmopan, and the birds’ point of origin)
The pigeon and I had already decided that the site wasn’t suitable and more importantly, there were actually very few pigeons there. She was surprised I had even contemplated it. I cautiously asked her if they ate pigeons – she replied ‘yes, of course’ (as if I’m stupid) and then proceeded to tell me how her baby-sitter asked her if she would like any parrots: apparently the brother was going out this weekend to get lots. My friend declined – the girl persisted: “Are you sure?” she said “they taste lovely”.

So there you have it. It’s not enough that native Belizeans think it’s still okay to eat iguanas during nesting season, or make soup from the critically endangered Hicatee turtle, or take a parrot from the wild and put it in a cage. We now have a new generation of immigrants who think nothing of chowing down on roast parrot on a Sunday afternoon. They care to learn nothing from the fact that their mother country (El Salvador) has already managed to eradicate the white-fronted parrot, that it is illegal to touch them in Belize, that it is quite frankly, bloody rude to come into someone else’s country, as their guest, and systematically destroy their culture, history and wildlife, just as they have in their own country, without so much as a backward glance.

To teach a generation of children to respect and value wildlife rather than treat it with apathy and indifference is one challenge, but to convince an immigrant population of primarily Spanish-speakers that those free-flying creatures are not theirs for the taking – well, that’s darn near impossible. Couldn't this stuff be highlighted during the immigration process? Couldn't there be a form they sign to say they understand that wildlife is protected and they don't have a right to help themselves? Shouldn't awareness of the laws governing behaviour in your adopted country be as important as the National Anthem and the National Prayer?
Yes – I’m an immigrant too – so what’s your point?? (I told you I was depressed – I get cranky when I’m depressed)

I cautiously await the results of the 10-year population and housing census in late May. I suspect we are all in for a shock. The schools are overflowing and the current immigration and birth statistics are alarming. There’s only one way for this population to go, and that’s out into the forests with bulldozers and flame throwers.

Robin Brockett and I often talk around this subject. Most of those entering Belize now are catholic, which means future numbers cannot be controlled. The county can barely feed, clothe, house and educate the children it has now. Public sector employment is out of control and the majority of the poor immigrant field workers don’t earn enough to pay tax, and neither will their children, always assuming they can get a job.

How can we get ahead of these kids, convince them that wildlife is an essential part of the economy? How do you tell a family on the poverty line not to trap and kill peccary because it’s endangered, when their family is starving and this animal means nothing more to them than food on the table? What is the value in ‘rescuing’ 2 parrots, when just down the road a single family is trapping 10 for their lunch, or selling 20 as disposable pets, or shooting 50 because they might have eaten a bit of orange blossom.

If anyone has the answer, apart from sailing off into the sunset whilst trying to avoid the Pacific Garbage Gyre and the leaching tanker off the GBR in the process, I’d be very grateful.
Tomorrow I’m sure I will magically awaken as my old optimistic self. For today, I feel a beer coming on.