Letters


Dear Parrots magazine,

National Parrot Sanctuary & Zoo

I’d like to comment on conditions for birds at the National Parrot Sanctuary and Zoo in Lincolnshire.

 

BirdsFirst inspects a range of zoos and bird parks each year in the UK and visited the National Parrot Sanctuary & Zoo in March 2009. We found several areas where conditions for the birds were seriously substandard. These included matters relating to overcrowding of aviaries, lack of environmental stimulation for the birds, presence of rats, poor hygiene regarding feeding methods, poor diets (mainly dry seed with minimal fruit offered).

 

We saw bowls of drinking water, which were filthy with green algal growth, sludge and the birds’ faeces. The ‘sheltered’ areas for the birds were dilapidated, many having been chewed to near destruction by the birds. Some of the aviary mesh is too large and this allows rats and small wild birds to gain access to the flights, these animals feed on the parrots’ food and defecate in their aviaries.

In winter conditions, night time temperatures will drop below freezing regularly between November and March. None of the birds have any heating and darkness lasts for up to 16 hours each night in winter. The parrots are forced to endure temperatures that are below the lower critical temperature (LCT) for these species. This means the birds will need to shiver to keep their body temperature up in order to avoid hypothermia. Lowland tropical species such as Greys, and some Amazons and conures are not adapted to sub-zero temperatures for 16 hours at night. They are at risk of dying from hypothermia. All birds should be provided with wind-proof accommodation and additional heating.

Following our inspection, we sent our report first to the proprietor of the NPS&Z. After two weeks he had still not replied. Following this, we sent our report to the RSPCA and the local council, who issue the National Parrot Sanctuary & Zoo with their zoo licence. In April, the RSPCA sent a specialist inspector to examine the premises. His report found very similar problems as we had, the birds’ welfare was being compromised in several areas.

Following these inspections, the premises were inspected in May by a DEFRA vet and a local council employee, as part of a routine, required procedure under the Zoo Licensing Act (ZLA). We understand the vet was a specialist in reptile and fish medicine, not birds. There were 22 issues raised by this inspection as well. These included matters relating to quarantine, staff knowledge, food storage, no veterinary health plan for the Zoo, and a failure to comply with a further range of issues from previous official ZLA inspections. Causes of deaths of birds were difficult to ascertain, since very few post mortems were being carried out. This report is a public document and can be obtained from East Lindsey District Council.

The DEFRA report also found the on-site conservation and education facilities inadequate. The establishment has no policy on the problem of surplus birds being produced by the pet trade, many of which end up in places such as these. It appears the National Parrot Sanctuary & Zoo relies on the donation secured by each relinquished bird for some of its income, which is typically £50 per bird. There is no policy on the breeding of birds. We understand from information from ex-volunteers that many donated birds were never ‘quarantined’ but merely released into the aviaries within a day or so of arrival. We know that some who have managed to get their birds back, following relinquishment, have paid up to £250 for their ‘own’ bird’s return. There are no professional qualified staff on site and the zoo is not affiliated to any zoo federation in the UK or Europe.

We are of the view that these premises cannot provide appropriate care for birds and that the birds’ welfare is at serious risk. The proprietor and the premises were removed as being ‘approved’ by the RSPCA. The Zoo Licensing Act is poor regarding animal welfare but the Animal Welfare Act provides better provision for preventing suffering than the ZLA.

Until improvements are made with regard to the birds’ temperature needs, diet, densities within aviaries environmental enrichment and veterinary provision, we are of the view that these premises are not suitable for birds to be kept in. Bona fide sanctuaries have clear policies that they do not support the breeding, buying or selling of birds, but these policies were lacking at the National Parrot Sanctuary & Zoo.

Greg Glendell, 
Hon director, BirdsFirst

 


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