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The Priceless Parrot Preserve is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists for the purpose of educating the public about exotic birds (both domestic and in the wild) and to give a permanent home to abused, mistreated, and unwanted exotic birds.
The Priceless Parrot Preserve has been operating since 1991 but officially became a
501(c) 3 non-profit organization in 2006. The Preserve has two main goals 1. to educate the
public about exotic birds (as pets and in the wild) and 2. to give a permanent home to abused,
mistreated, and unwanted exotic birds. Although the primary geographic area reached by the
Preserve is Long Island and other parts of New York State, birds from other locations around the
United States have been given permanent homes at the Preserve and education regarding exotic
birds has a broader geographical reach.
Members of the Priceless Parrot Preserve seek to raise awareness about the responsibilities of owning pet parrots and the threats that these species face in the wild. Much of this education is conducted at outreach events. A recurring outreach event takes place at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, where members of the Preserve will set up a table and provide information to interested visitors. In addition to these visits, which take place over a few of the Aquarium’s busiest weeks each year, the Aquarium has constructed an aviary that permanently holds four members of the Preserve’s flock so that visitors can be learn more about these animals year round. Numerous other outreach events are attended throughout the year.
Previous events have included town festivals, university festivals, pet expositions, veterinary
technician universities, and girl and boy scouts meetings.
In addition to the education opportunities that members of the Preserve seek out, many
parrot owners from around the United States have contacted the Preserve for advice on raising
their parrots. When they can be of assistance, members of the Preserve answer caller questions
regarding parrot behavior and health at no fee. This service is often provided at a cost to pet
owners by other organizations. Although all pet birds should be brought to the veterinarian
regularly, it is estimated that only 15% ever make it there (Tweti 2008). Although the Preserve’s
advice is not a replacement for the veterinarian, it is the only advice some parrot owners ever
seek, making this service even more crucial to the wellbeing of pet parrots in the United States.
Although educating the public about owning parrots can go a long way in protecting the
welfare of these species, the number of unwanted parrots in the United States is already very
high and increasing. The United States underwent a boom in parrot pet sales between the 1970s
and 1990s. Estimates of the number of parrots owned in the United States were as high as 65 million in 2005 (Tweti 2008), and this number has likely grown since. But many new parrot owners are not prepared for the difficulties associated with these messy, loud, and sometimes nippy pets. Many parrots are therefore re-homed numerous times, live a life of neglect and abuseor, if they are lucky, are placed at a rescue. A 2003 survey by PetSmart found only 5,391 parrots in rescues, but it is likely that this number is much higher as there are now over 100 parrot rescues (many with 100-200 birds each) in the United States (Tweti 2008). Many rescues adopt parrots out to new owners. The Priceless Parrot Preserve does not adopt out any parrot that it takes in for permanent care, as many of these parrots were abused, have behavioral problems, or were already re-homed many times in their life. The Preserve believes that these unwanted pets should be able to live the rest of their lives in a caring, knowledgeable environment with plenty of interaction with people and other parrots. The Preserve has over 100 permanent flock members from 29 species. Many of the flock members are Macaws and Cockatoos, given that these species are commonly abandoned. The organization’s founder, Gene Avery, is also a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator and has rehabilitated non-parrot wildlife in the past.
The numerous responsibilities of the Priceless Parrot Preserve are carried out by a select
few individuals, none of which are paid. The directors of the organization, Gene and Marietta
Avery, work full time without compensation to fulfill these responsibilities. Their three children
often help with cleaning and outreach activities. The Preserve currently has five volunteers who
contribute a total of 80-100 hours a week to assist with cleaning, socializing flock members,
outreach events, and fundraising. Three of these volunteers come from the Department of Labor
or American Red Cross.
- Natasha Gownaris
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