Friday, 11 March 2016

Parque das Aves, Foz do Iguaçu: Brazil's Bird Paradise

My trip to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil’s Parana state was an incredible experience. There were so many different trips within the trip and there will be many more blog posts resulting from it. I put together a series of vlogs on my YouTube channel and you can check them out here. In this post, I wanted to share with you my experience of an incredible bird park - Parque das Aves.

I am an animal lover. As a kid, I used to love going to the zoo to see exotic animals and birds. As I grew older, I became more of a zoo sceptic. Not that I’m against their existence, but more that I enjoyed going to them less and less. If it’s not the ignorance of some people visiting, it’s the conditions some of the magnificent animals are kept in. So I simply stayed away.

While in Foz, I was invited to visit the Parque das Aves. Without having done any research, I was sceptical too, but this feeling didn't last long. Carmel and Oli, the two directors of the park who moved to Brazil from England to take over the family business a few years ago, met me at the entrance. They immediately answered my questions, explaining that one of the main functions is to act as a bird hospital.

Parque das Aves is more of a bird sanctuary than a zoo. Sick or injured birds are brought to the park – mainly following raids by police on animal traffickers. Birds are mended and, those that can be reintroduced into the wild are. Those that are unable to go back into the wild are released into the enormous aviaries where they live happy lives with their fellow species.

The park also helps with breeding programs for rare and endangered species. For example, they bred the first ever mutum-do-alagoas chick in October 2015. We got a sneak peak of the baby bird, which is growing well. Since there are only 300 of these birds left and, none in the wild, it’s hoped that this breeding program could eventually lead to species reintroduction. Situated in one of the last remaining preserved areas of the Atlantic Rainforest, the park has put a lot into making sure native plants and trees thrive in the park. It is literally like a dense rainforest in there. The sights, smells and noises were incredible.

I was completely at ease at Parque das Aves. It’s clear that many of the birds in the park are domesticated and wouldn't be able to function in the wild. The toucan pen was an example. When you walk through, they will come down and perch themselves on pillar posts next to you, and will even jump up on your shoulder. These birds are used to humans, were raised by humans and have no fear. Humans can be dangerous and in the wild such birds could fly right back to dangerous bird traffickers.

I enjoyed one particularly cool experience. Carmel gave me a grape to feed to one of the toucans, which gently and slowly took it from my hands. Rather than swallowing, it started making a deep-throated noise, with the grape still grasped at the end of its beak, hopped over and started rubbing up against my arm, as if to give the grape back to me. It was a really touching moment. Carmel explained this was an affectionate gesture – although, in the wild, a gesture that some large birds perform when searching for a mate (!!!).

We stood with swooping macaws. In their enormous pens, they swoop down from up high and directly over your heads. As well as birds, the park also keeps insects and reptiles. It also involves the local indigenous communities.

I have huge respect for what they’ve achieved at Parque das Aves. It’s the dedication of people like Carmel and Oli that could help ensure birds like the mutum-de-alagoas has a future. Meanwhile, the education of children at the park is another important function. If future generations learn the importance of conservation, then surely the battle against extinction of forest and fauna can be turned.

If you want to know more about Parque das Aves, check out their website, follow them on Facebook and Instagram


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