Not Your Average “Parrot Person” Photo…

Shari Mirojnick has kindly allowed me to add her to the group of people I’ve interviewed in a rather unusual fashion I call, “Finish the Sentence.” I give the subject the beginning of ten sentences and they may finish them anyway they want. It’s tougher than it looks.

A little about Shari: Let me start by saying that Shari has a rather diverse background. A musicology major, Shari was heavily into the 1960’s Garage Band Revival Movement in New York in the 1980’s. She belonged to a couple of major local bands, The Outta Place, and The Maneaters, an all-girl garage blues band. This is where I get fuzzy about everything. But from what I can put together, Shari ended up  at UCLA  and also ended up adopting Fred, her Pre-CITES wild-caught African Grey from a friend with major health problems.

Fred is not only gorgeous, robustly healthy and quite the diplomat, he also happens to be one of biggest African Greys I’ve ever seen. And as life has a tendency to meander, Shari ended up down in Florida and we became friends. A consummate bird groomer and Vet Tech, Shari is also quite active with AGAG, the African Grey Action Group. AGAG is a Group of over 600 members. They are active in bringing change to the policies of many African Countries regarding the trapping and exportation of wild African Greys. and from what I have seen, they seem to be making an impact.

Shari with The Maneaters

1.)  Most days with my Greys…Are my favorite.  Whenever I’m home, I always spend my time in the bird room.  I find it to be the most relaxing time

2.)   I never thought…Yeah…. I just never thought any of this

3.)  What I’d eventually like to see happen…I would like to see no parrots in captivity.  I’d like us as a species decide we will no longer put our desires and tremendous love for parrots over their needs, and leave them to be the wild creatures they truly are.  I’d like to see the end of breeding altogether, let those in captivity live out their lives without being replaced, and leave the wild parrots to be that:  wild.  I wish them to be free and wild like lions, tigers, and bears who are also unsuitable “pets.”

Keeping parrots in captivity is an offense against nature, and the parrots are telling us themselves.  They self-mutilate, destroy their feathers, scream excessively, and demand the kind and amount of attention that most people are not able to give.  Their health is jeopardized by captivity as they have not evolved the ability to fend off infection-causing germs that are common in our environment.  They also suffer from liver issues such as cirrhosis and enlargement, gout, seizures, vitamins A and D deficiencies, calcium deficiencies, egg-binding, rickets…. I’ll stop there.

Regardless of what people will tell you about life expectancy, getting your parrot past twenty years is a feat in itself for the average person. However, I don’t think people will ever stop keeping parrots as “pets;” therefore, the need for ethical, moral, and loving breeders is crucial.  If we do not breed a certain amount of parrots for the “pet trade,” we will certainly turn to capturing even more wild parrots.  We also need more research regarding diet and health care.

Shari Doing her Thing With Parker at the Vet’s Office

4.)  I have always wanted…my own mountain top with a little house and a HUGE outdoor aviary.  I’d like the aviary all landscaped with plants, and water features…. and an Adirondack chair right in the middle.

5.)  I think my best work…is still ahead of me

6.)  I’ve always tried…to be a regular person.  I’ve always failed.

Shari with Irene Pepperberg, Lisa Bono and Dr. Sam Backos

7.)  When I met…Dr. Irene Pepperberg, it was a reality check (and an honor!) for me.  I got to meet with her for a half hour, and although we talked a lot about our common NY upbringing, parents, education, and love of classical music, we also talked about what I’m doing for parrots.  She gave me some great advice, but mostly she gave me a needed pat on the shoulder, and the confidence to know that I was on the right track.  She has always been a tremendous inspiration for me, and I wish I had told her that.

8.)  If I could accomplish…just one tenth of my dreams, I’d be happy.  (I’m a frequent day-dreamer).

9.) I’ll never forget…Iko.  She was my first grey that I considered a rescue.  I thought I would rehome her; however, it turned out she had had such a horrible life, I decided to keep her with me forever, which was only four years.  I’ll never forget her because of her innate goodness and obvious ability to forgive.  She had a permanently dislocated hip which caused her to walk with a limp, a badly-healed and arthritic broken ankle, old breaks in her lower vertebrae, and half a toe that was lopped off by her former drunken owner when she tried to clip her nails.  Yet, this little one-pound creature had more humanity in her than most people, as she was loving and gentle with everyone.  All she wanted was to just be close to you.  She had a small plush toy that was her “baby,” and she used to bring it into her cardboard box and keep it tucked under her.  She made me a better person.

Shari and Iko

10.) One thing I’ve learned…Is the importance of social networking.  I know this sounds trite, but parrot people are coming together from all over the world to unite, help, learn and share.  Without forums like Facebook, I would never have met all the people from South Africa and elsewhere in the world to form the African Grey Action Group.  Our first goal is to stop the capture of wild-caught grey parrots and subsequent export into South Africa.  AGAG is a conglomerate of breeders, researchers, activists, and concerned people all working toward ending this cruel trade.  Social networking has been very beneficial for parrots.