Birds get new wings at Brazil re­hab cen­ter

'This is a flight school! We train them so they can be ready to live in the wild'

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Not a sin­gle wing flut­ters in the Sero­pe­dica aviary near Rio de Janeiro, where aras and other par­rots are learn­ing how to fly again af­ter they were res­cued from traf­fick­ers. Nearby, mon­keys, tur­tles, boas and even al­li­ga­tors are also be­ing nursed back to health at the IBAMA treat­ment cen­ter, just a 90-minute drive from Rio. The state-funded en­tity takes care of wild an­i­mals that were hunted, wounded or do­mes­ti­cated, get­ting them back in shape so they can re­turn to their nat­u­ral habi­tat.

Some par­rots bear the marks of mal­treat­ment, while oth­ers say "Ola" (hello) re­peat­edly-a sign they were do­mes­ti­cated. In or­der to strengthen bird wings at­ro­phied from years spent in a cage, vet­eri­nar­ian Ta­ciana Sherlock ex­er­cises the an­i­mals by plac­ing them on her arm and then shak­ing it up and down. The ma­jes­tic blue and yel­low ara she is train­ing strains to spread its wings. Some of its feath­ers were clipped dur­ing cap­tiv­ity to limit its mo­bil­ity, and it doesn't seem ready to take off on its own just yet.

The birds are also en­cour­aged to take flight us­ing two perches set at a dis­tance from one an­other, with food on ei­ther side. "This is a flight school! We train them so they can be ready to live in the wild. We also have to train them to iden­tify preda­tors and find food," the vet­eri­nar­ian ex­plained.

Clip­ping wings

Lit­tle by lit­tle, the IBAMA team-which hosts some 7,000 an­i­mals per year spa­ces out con­tact with the birds un­til they are no longer used to hu­mans. They are then freed in their na­tive habi­tat, of­ten a for­est in an­other state such as Ama­zo­nia. "What they've en­dured is re­ally cruel, and it's hor­ri­ble to see them ar­rive in such a bad state. But the re­ward is to see them ready to re­turn to the wild. Last week, we freed 20 aras and tou­cans who could fly in Goias," a cen­tral state, Sherlock ex­claimed. Sales of wild an­i­mals are banned, but the prac­tice is wide­spread in Brazil, es­pe­cially in Rio, home to the world's big­gest ur­ban for­est. Species na­tive to this re­gion still live nearby, and some­times in the city it­self.

Tou­cans, snakes and mon­keys are a com­mon sight at cer­tain mar­kets. IBAMA es­ti­mates that around 38 mil­lion an­i­mals are caught in the wild each year. Four mil­lion of them are sold, in an in­dus­try worth some $2.57 bil­lion. Small birds gen­er­ate the most rev­enue, es­pe­cially song birds. Hav­ing a caged bird is a very com­mon prac­tice in Rio's work­ing class neigh­bor­hoods, and clan­des­tine bird song com­pe­ti­tions are rou­tine. In or­der to fa­cil­i­tate sales for do­mes­tic uses, some traf­fick­ers are quick to clip part of the birds' wings, or break some of their bones. The suf­fer­ing par­a­lyzes the birds, which makes them seem more do­mes­ti­cated.

En­vi­ron­men­tal po­lice brought more than 300 small birds to the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter in mid-July. Roched Seba, founder of the Vida Li­bre in­sti­tute, an IBAMA part­ner, pointed to dozens of small cages on the ground. "Some­times three of these birds are kept in each mini-com­part­ment, so of course some don't even sur­vive trans­porta­tion from the for­est to the city," said Seba, 31.

Learn to fly

"In Brazil, we have the most bio­di­ver­sity in the world, but peo­ple don't know an­i­mals and want to do­mes­ti­cate wild species. We need to change minds with bet­ter in­for­ma­tion." Seba works fre­quently with Sherlock and al­most al­ways brings an an­i­mal found in Rio each time he comes to the cen­ter in Sero­pe­dica. But some an­i­mals will never be able to safely live out­side of cap­tiv­ity again. They have been do­mes­ti­cated to such an ex­tent that they would des­per­ately seek hu­man con­tact if re­leased, only to be cap­tured once more.

Dur­ing AFP's visit to the cen­ter, a rac­coon was dropped off af­ter he was found in a favela. The an­i­mal, prob­a­bly na­tive to Rio's trop­i­cal for­est, was scared, wounded and prac­ti­cally blind. It will never be able to re­turn to the wild, Seba ac­knowl­edged. A small bird with green plumage fol­lowed the vet­eri­nar­i­ans ev­ery­where. "It learned how to fly again here. It's free to go but it stays with us all the time, so it's be­come our mas­cot," Seba said. — AFP

A blue and a red macaws re­ceive at­ten­tion from an Ibama worker in­side the "flight school" aviary where the an­i­mals try to adapt to life in na­ture, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. — AFP pho­tos

Birds re­cov­ered from il­le­gal traders are treated at the An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Cen­ter of Ibama (Brazil­ian In­sti­tute of En­vi­ron­ment and Re­new­able Nat­u­ral Re­sources) in the city of Sero­pe­dica.

A baby snake is be­ing treated at the Ibama's An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Cen­ter in Sero­pe­dica.

A hawk with a dam­aged wing is be­ing treated at the Ibama's An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Cen­ter in Sero­pe­dica.

A blue macaw in­side the "flight school" aviary.

A baby mon­key born at the Ibama's An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Cen­ter in Sero­pe­dica, state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ariel, an old rac­coon, is trans­ported in a cage to the Ibama's An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Cen­ter in Sero­pe­dica, state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A blue and red macaws are pic­tured in­side the "flight school" aviary where the an­i­mals try to adapt to life in na­ture.

Birds are be­ing treated at the Ibama's An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Cen­ter in Sero­pe­dica, state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ibama work­ers ex­am­ine a blue macaw's wing in­side the "flight school" aviary.

A tou­can is treated at the Ibama's An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Cen­ter in Sero­pe­dica, state of Rio de Janeiro.

Guil­herme, a young rac­coon, plays with a worker's shoes at the An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Cen­ter.

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