The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where Parrots Come From

It's unfortunately common to see wild birds for sale all over Vietnam (and Southeast Asia for that matter). It's for this reason that one can go walking in the countryside or out in the jungle for the afternoon without hearing a single bird peep.

I always assumed that the birds caught for sale as pets (or to eat) were captured deliberately and specifically for that purpose alone. I discovered on a recent expedition however, that this is not always the case. The farmers above netted a flock of parrots that were eating (actually devastating) his corn crop in northern Binh Thuan Province.

It was unpleasant to see these poor beautiful and intelligent creatures stuffed into a tiny box, or even worse, crammed head first into soda cans with the ends tied shut. The farmer would eventually stuff all 15 parrots that he caught into soft drink cans, bend the end shut, and take them into town to sell to a bird dealer, at $1 each.

That bird dealer will then put them in these more attractive cages, mount them on a motorbike, and travel around the district, selling them on street corners, such as in front of the People's Committee Building and the Phan Thiet water tower. All of this is very illegal of course, but unfortunately is a regular affair.

So, next time you are tempted to buy a new pet  bird, please consider this; where these birds come from and how they are treated. Wouldn't you rather see them on your hike through the forest than in a tiny cage?

Also, this points to a different strategy that conservationists need to consider. Rather than always going after the bird sellers, we should also invest resources in how we can assist farmers in growing their crops while keeping these birds away, without resorting to trapping them. We can eliminate the bird sellers but if the birds are still a problem for the farmer, then they may just kill them and/or eat them rather than selling them.

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