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.
October 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm
October 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm
This young woman is an old soul. I also wish the things you wish: no animal living in captivity…living as was intended. I hate adding law after law…but perhaps ending parrot breeding is not a bad one.
October 24, 2011 at 7:03 am
I feel about Shari the way Shari feels about Dr. Pepperberg. She is an inspiration to all of the bird-people, including me. She has raised my awareness of the status parrots haven this world with her example. Dr. Backos is lucky to have her as an assistant and I am lucky to have her as a friend! Thank you Patricia for this excellent tribute and your dedication also!
October 24, 2011 at 10:49 am
lovely responses. I too amtsruck at parrots forgiving nature.
Dot in nUK
October 24, 2011 at 11:19 am
Have to say I disagree with your interview subject’s response to #3 in your current blog. You yourself are an example of a dedicated owner who is doing so much to further education in parrot care and providing a valuable resource. Of course all parrots in captivity don’t receive optimal care, but we all know there are hundreds/thousands of owners who do take excellent care of their pets. Saying that someday no one should own a parrot is discounting all of the knowledge gained, endangered species that would be extinct if they weren’t being bred by conscientious breeders, and conservation efforts which have increased as a direct result of people’s appreciation for how wonderful parrots are. All owners are not bad and a domestically raised parrot can lead a wonderful life. I guess I’m more of an optimist and believe in a hopeful future for the planet and its inhabitants, and it carries over to things like bird companions and how we can improve their lives. When I lived in NC, I loved to watch the wild ponies of the Outer Banks. They’re beautiful, wild and free. Doesn’t mean no one should keep a horse. As a friend says, it’s not “natural” for kids to grow up and work in cubicles, either… 🙂
October 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm
The idealist in me wishes for no more pet parrots especially as I deal with my chronic plucker and strive to give him the best life I know how while living the life I have to live in the meantime( you know, the one that pays the bills…). It’s always a balance… However as a perfect world will never be I am hopeful that we can continue to educate and inform others on how to be the best parrot care-givers they can be.
October 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm
Kate, that’s exactly how I feel. We can never stop the learning process for making their lives in captivity the best it can be. I think we always need to keep the idea of them being wild animals always present for two reasons: 1) so we understand them for who they really are; and 2) so that we know we will never reproduce their native lives, and we can always do better with the more we understand.
And let me say, you are not alone. I see people all the time who are the best care-givers to their parrots, yet have problems like chronic plucking. Most of the time, I don’t think emotional and physical problems in parrots are within our control. This is why I think they are unfit for captivity.
Please don’t think that your parrot plucks because of something you do or don’t do. Don’t feel that you have to qualify it by saying you have to pay the bills–everyone has to. We don’t know why parrots pick, only to say that we know wild parrots don’t do it. My advice to you is, just know a feather picking parrot can be just as happy and well-cared for as any other parrot. It’s not a reflection on you or your bird, but of the situation in which we have created in parrot culture.
Good luck with everything, and thanks for taking the time to comment on my entry.