Staff and supporters are working to keep the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs alive after the death of founder Wendy Huntbatch in February.

Fate of more than 600 birds at World Parrot Refuge in Coombs remains unclear

SPCA says there is an active investigation involving the facility

After the death of its founder, the World Parrot Refuge in Errington is still operating, but the SPCA says it has some concerns.

“We’ve been there a couple times, just examining the birds,” said BCSPCA spokesperson Lorie Chortyk of the non-profit facility that houses more than 600 birds from across the continent, mostly parrots people were unable to care for any longer.

“We’re working closely with the refuge to address some immediate concerns regarding the birds that require veterinary treatment,” she said.

She said she couldn’t give much detail because there is an active investigation, but that in general terms they investigate every complaint and can issue specific orders about required changes.

Founder Wendy Huntbatch died in February and now her husband Horst Neumann — who owns the property — reportedly wants to distance himself from the facility.

Neumann told the CBC last week that he’s spent millions of dollars over the years to support the refuge — and he’s told them the arrangement needs to change.

“I’ve given them (the society)all kinds of options. So I’m expecting someone will get back to me with what their direction is,” he told the CBC last week. The options include moving, paying rent, or purchasing the property.

While the rumours are flying, no facility representatives could be reached for comment. There are extensive Facebook discussions however, which include posts from the facility stating it is under new management and taking steps to secure it and keep Huntbatch’s legacy alive.

Described in Facebook posts as director of fundraising, Lynn Keogh has posted that they are looking for a new home.

Last week, she told the CBC the society that operates the refuge relies on donations and admission fees, so it doesn’t have the money to move and she fears moving the birds would not honour Huntbatch’s wishes.

“She did not want these birds to ever have to leave this place,” she told the CBC. “She wanted them to have a home for life where they could be a part of a flock they have chosen and live a natural life as much as possible.”

Meanwhile Chortyk of the SPCA told The NEWS: “We are very concerned about their situation, the fact that they might be without a facility, so we’re really encouraging them to develop a transition plan.”

“When we go inside we would examine all the animals on site and develop orders that say specifically what needs to happen whether that’s a change in how they’re sheltered or if they need veterinary care… and then we do follow-ups.”

“We don’t have the facilities to care for exotic birds, but we do have power under the law if we need to seize animals, we would then work with other organizations that do have the facilities to provide that care.”

She said other rescue agencies and veterinarians have offered to help.

Another Facebook post said that if people are concerned about donating to the facility in this transitional time, they could donate directly to the society’s outstanding balances with the Coombs Veterinary Clinic or Night Owl Veterinary Clinic in Vancouver, which are helping support the society.

The facility has a fundraising page at www.gofundme.com/worldparrotrefuge

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