Drug Addicted Parrots Recover At Canadian Rehab Center
Polly want crack? Or maybe a beer or a cloud of cigarette smoke blown in the beak? All are familiar scenarios to Wendy Huntbatch, president of the World Parrot Refuge in the Vancouver Island community of Coombs where, among 800 rescued birds, there are parrots withdrawing from drugs, recovering from exposure to smoke, or healing after mistreatment by drug users and dealers."We have birds that were used as toys by drug addicts. Watching them go through withdrawal is dreadful," Huntbatch said. The backgrounds of many birds at the World Parrot Refuge are enough to make their feathers fall out - literally. A derbyan parakeet came in with all colour sucked out of its feathers, a broken tail and a bad case of the shakes. "He would just vibrate," Huntbatch said. "It was horrible." That parakeet is a success story. "We have given him vitamin shots and he has done remarkably well. It took about three weeks before his colour started coming back," Huntbatch said. Others take much longer to recover or are beyond help. An emaciated macaw had lost all its feathers by the time it arrived in Coombs, about 30 kilometres northwest of Nanaimo. "I worked with him here every day and we managed to put some weight on him, but we never could get far. He was too damaged and he passed on," Huntbatch said sadly. However, the macaw's suffering wasn't entirely in vain. While he lived, he served as a graphic lesson to warn kids away from drugs. "We have school trips coming in and I would show the kids another bird of the same species and then show them this bird and say, 'This is what drugs do to you,'" Huntbatch said. The World Parrot Refuge gives birds that arrive on its doorstep a home for life and is unique in Canada. But money is running out and Huntbatch wonders what the future holds. Provincial gambling grants for the refuge were cut off two years ago and the $400,000 annual budget has to be raised entirely from donations.