Guest Post | Return Our Parrots!
So I finally dug this post out of one called Stanford! When I saw him get a response to his persistence I pounced…poor thing…but I’m tenacious, as he no doubt now realizes (and you’re welcome for the space, Stanny!). And this is why I kept at him: every so often I’d see @stannyha tweet to @NEPAJamaica about some smuggled rare parrots. At first I thought it was a random thing but then I saw the tweets again…and again…and again. And I began to smile. I LOVE it when us “ordinary” Jamaicans focus on an issue and demand answers from the folks in charge. Yes, these are “just parrots”…but they’re not “just parrots.” (Kinda like Twitter.) Big or small it’s important to us to demand action to protect the nation’s and citizens’ rights…to demand the action that is required to protect our country. Stanford does just that, I think, and I hope NEPA realizes that he’s not going to give up…support him…and demand the same for what’s important to you.
I am a country man. I have never loved city life. Yes, I have lived in cities, visited cities in foreign countries, hopped trains & gotten lost in foreign cities (well technically the map was wrong). It’s a joy for me to go to a big city, explore it to death and find my own way back home. This little ramble of mine is about country though. Specifically about parrots – a member of Jamaica’s fauna that people take for granted.
I grew up in Jamaica’s countryside, in the cool hills & valleys of Trelawny & later moved to Portland on the northeast coast. When I was a little boy in Trelawny – about six or seven years old, an older cousin had a cage with two parrots. At the time, I thought there was only one type of parrot that existed. I later found out that the ones he had were actually Yellow Billed parrots (Amazona collaria) and they were protected and endangered species. Of course possessing these birds was illegal. I think my cousin knew this because he was always quite shifty when visitors came to the house. Nevertheless it was hilarious to see him (a rebellious young man in his late teens/early twenties at the time) teach the birds Jamaican curse words. The best part of my day was coming from school to hear the birds curse “raasclaat” and “yuh bombo” or something to that effect. I knew very well that I dare not say these words but to hear the birds go at it with each other and anyone who came close to the cage was the funniest thing ever!
Since then I have had a great love for parrots. Whenever I visit a zoo or aviary, I spend a great deal of time in the section with the macaws/ parrots. If no one is looking, I try to teach them to say “raasclaat” too. As I grew older I realized how much in danger these Jamaican birds are and have not supported the idea of holding them in captivity just for the sake of amusement. Jamaican law states that
Anyone found in possession of a Jamaican parrot or any parts of it can face a maximum fine of $100,000 or 12 months in prison under the Wild Life Protection Act and can be fined up to $2,000,000 and/or two years in prison if caught trading in or exporting these birds without a permit under the Endangered Species Act.
Now, with that being said, you can imagine my alarm when I saw this article in the newspaper last December about Jamaican parrot eggs smuggled to Austria: Smuggled Jamaican Parrots big hit at Vienna Zoo.
Austria! You know how far Austria is from Jamaica? No? Well I’ll tell you. It’s five thousand four hundred and odd miles away! In excess of eleven hours on a modern commercial jet. I don’t even know how long it would take for a parrot to fly the equivalent of that distance in the wild. In that newspaper article there’s an image of about fifty eggs. How the hell does one carry fifty eggs on a commercial plane at the correct temperature for eleven hours across the Atlantic Ocean, slip through Customs and take them to a zoo? Are there even straight flights to Austria from Jamaica? I doubt it very much. Doesn’t sound like a profitable route since we don’t do that much trade in goods, services or tourism with Austria. That means a connecting flight. Eleven hours just became what? Maybe twenty hours? Twenty four?
So right away, I tweeted NEPA (National Environmental and Planning Agency (@nepajamaica) something like this “What steps are being taken to repatriate those parrots that were illegally exported to Austria?” along with a link to the article I read. No response. A few days later another article caught my eye: Jamaica moves to have endemic parrots returned.
This gave me some hope because even though NEPA had not responded to my tweet I thought to myself well at least they were taking steps to resolve the issue. To cut a long story short, every month after that, I religiously tweeted NEPA asking what had become of the issue. Still no response. Someone I met via Twitter (Alice Clare (@cucumberjuice)) who has eagerly offered me room on her blog to vent (thank you Alice) saw me tweeting NEPA and ever so often would ask if they had responded. Finally about a month ago (Jun 19, 2012) NEPA responded to one of my annoying monthly tweets:
I was beside myself with joy. I still am because even though I haven’t seen anything in the media about repatriating the birds nearly seven months after the story came to light, I feel that we can still get the birds back.
Unless we “fraid” of big bad Austria – a “developed” nation with about eight and a half million people where “The Sound Of Music” was partly filmed in the 1960s. If it were up to me they would be facing the sound of music to a proper international investigation. I would make a big stink of them stealing our parrots and alert every International body responsible for these matters. Just like how I tweeted NEPA every month about the issue, I would rope een the International media on the case. We have been wrongly stigmatized as having pure con artistes and scammers. I would call out the parrot thieves wickedly!
Anyway, I would like to implore all well-thinking Jamaicans to do your part in protecting our wild life (flora & fauna). Every living thing is important to who we are as a people. From cow itch & mongoose to cow & Johncrow. Speaking of Johncrow – they are becoming extinct too. The flying ones I mean. Quite a few wingless johncrows abound – but that’s for another blog.
NEPA, please follow up on the case of the stolen parrots. I won’t include any cliché “Jamaica 50” blather. The parrots should be returned to us and the guilty parties brought to book. Plain and simple. Anyone found in possession of a Jamaican parrot or any parts of it can face a maximum fine of J$100,000 or 12 months in prison under the Wild Life Protection Act and can be fined up to J$2,000,000 and/or two years in prison if caught trading in or exporting these birds without a permit under the Endangered Species Act. See Act here.
Just like how foreign nations can demand our citizens be sent to them and face their justice system for crimes against their state due to XYZ treaty, so should the Austrian citizen(s) [Editor's note: the thieves are apparently Slovaks but there are Austrian zoo officials to be considered] responsible for stealing our parrots be sent back to Jamaica and face the long arm of the law. If no such treaty exists it needs to be looked into.
Let me end here for now. The Jamaican saying “yu chat too much, yu a mussie parrot” is beginning to take shape. Chat to me on Twitter (@stannyha)