Eleven years to the week after the The World Parrot Refuge opened in Coombs it closed its doors Friday, maybe for the last time.
Run by the non-profit For The Love of Birds Society, the facility took in parrots from all over North America, surpassing 800 at its peak. It had financial difficulties and has really struggled with the $500,000 annual cost of food, upkeep and medical costs since founder Wendy Huntbatch died from cancer in February.
Last week, Nanaimo city council unanimously stepped up, offering the lease of a former SPCA building on Labieux Road for $1 plus expenses, to temporarily house birds while they make permanent arrangements.
Unable to afford buying or renting the land the facility is on — owned by Huntbatch’s widower Horst Neuman — volunteers intend to vacate the facility by the end of July.
Led by the Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary in Vancouver, with the involvement of groups like the SPCA, volunteers are beginning the process of finding adequate homes for the birds, some of which came from poor situations and are not in the best shape.
Veterinarian and Greyhaven director Anne McDonald said last week that of the 550 to 600 birds they started with in February, 110 were taken to places like animal hospitals and they hope to return as many as possible to original owners that are willing and able to take them.
Despite some birds that need special attention, McDonald said “Most of these birds are nice birds, they’re lovely birds.” She estimated they will be left looking for homes for around 300 birds.
“Even if it turns out this space (in Nanaimo) can only accommodate 50 parrots, that’s significant because the numbers are huge,” Jan Robson, Greyhaven director of communications told The Nanaimo Bulletin.
“The City of Nanaimo is very pleased that we can assist Greyhaven with the relocation of the exotic birds from the World Parrot Refuge,” said councillor Wendy Pratt in a city news release, which says there could be as many as 450 birds needing a home.
The former SPCA property was recently sold to a developer, but Greyhaven can use it until the sale closes, not expected until December.
McDonald said the
Aug. 1 deadline was partially self-imposed for many reasons, including the quickly mounting costs of running the facility, which she estimated will cost Greyhaven $50,000 by the time they’re done, not including donated veterinary services.
People interested in helping, or eventually adopting a bird should e-mail: