A Call for Conservation

A wild bird in a public park gets shot under its wing. It flies off, loses strength and dies at the feet of the only group of birders in the entire park. What are the chances of that happening? WBCP Vice President Maia Tañedo writes about this unusual and very moving experience.

The Sad Death of a Parrot
by Maia Tañedo

A few Sundays ago, I was with fellow birdwatchers Jops, Mike, Arnel, Jayce, and Nico, in the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife premises to do an ocular for an upcoming event. As we approached the lagoon, a green bird started flying towards us. It flew lower and lower until it landed on the grassy banks of the lagoon by our feet.

The Colasisi landed on the banks of the lagoon and did not fly away again.

The Colasisi landed on the banks of the lagoon and did not fly away again.

Arnel immediately bent down to inspect the bird. It was a young Philippine Hanging Parrot, also known as Colasisi, the red patch on its head still beginning to develop.

Arnel gently checking the bird.

Arnel gently checking the bird.

The Philippine Hanging Parrot, or Colasisi, is a bird endemic to our country, just like the Philippine Eagle. It is found nowhere else in the world.

Seeing it sprawled on the grass and unmoving, the bird was obviously injured. Upon closer inspection, our fears were confirmed: it had a small bullet wound under its wing. The bird started crying out. It was very difficult to see and hear a young, beautiful bird in so much pain. It was Mother’s Day that day it happened, and I couldn’t help but think the young bird was crying out for its mother. Then, it stopped crying, breathed a couple more times, and then it died.

The poor bird had a bullet wound on its back.

The poor bird had a bullet wound on its back.

Arnel gently picked up the bird to further inspect the wound. It was a tiny bullet-wound, most probably from a pellet gun. He transferred the bird onto my hand for me to carry while we completed our walk. It was still warm, its feather’s really glossy, a very young bird. I looked at its half closed eyes. It was probably just feeding that morning when it was shot. For other people, it was a life worth wasting for their amusement. For us, it was a painful loss.

It died in front of us, after crying out a number of times.

It died in front of us, after crying out a number of times.

I stopped myself from crying and transferred the bird gently into my bag. I was very frustrated, sad, and angry. As we walked, I looked carefully at each person we passed, looking out for an air gun or pellet gun. I was ready to confront and fight. I think we all were. But we found none.

The first time I saw a Colasisi was in that very park way back in 2010. Jops and I were only four-month old birdwatchers and we were both amazed the first time we saw the bright green bird in the middle of the city. I clearly remember everything about that moment. On every guided trip we conducted since then, the Colasisi was a definite “crowd pleaser” sure to generate gasps, “wows,” and other exclamations of surprise and disbelief that such a cute and colorful bird lived in the city. It is always with pride when we would share that this bird can only be found in the Philippines. Now, I had a dead one in my bag, recently shot by a heartless human, most probably a fellow Filipino.

The Colasisi, or Philippine Hanging Parrot, feeds while hanging upside down.

The Colasisi, or Philippine Hanging Parrot, feeds while hanging upside down.

We turned over the dead bird to Ma’am Josie de Leon of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) who we saw near the Rescue Center. Upon seeing the bird and taking it into her own hands, her own tears of sadness and frustration fell. So did mine. She was excited to tell us about a successful buy-bust operation they had just conducted where they were able to rescue juvenile Philippine Serpent Eagles from a seller and now she was confronted with this. I could understand her frustration: one step forward, one step back. It is very disheartening that some Filipinos still chose to cage birds and shoot them for fun and sport instead of protecting them and seeing them as a source of national pride.

If it is any indication of why our country is where it is at, maybe we should reflect on what Mahatma Gandhi said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” If there are still Filipinos who feel that they have the right to maltreat animals, not only birds, but even the cats and dogs in their neighborhoods, then we aren’t such a great nation nor are we a morally progressive one. While our leaders debate and investigate pressing national issues, they sadly fail to see that the basic values and development of love on one’s country is looked over. How can we improve as a nation if our own countrymen do not value what our country has?

There is a desperate need for change in how we view and treat the animals we share our country with. And the change has to begin now. The incident was posted on the WBCP Facebook fanpage and already has more than 15,000 views and 100 shares. I read through the comments and was moved by what most people had to say. It gave me some hope that there is still a chance for Filipinos to change. But there were also some comments that made me realize there are still people who are not aware of how to properly treat these birds. For their benefit, let me emphasize parts of the Wildlife Act (R.A. No. 9147) pertinent to the issue I am writing about.

The following are ILLEGAL ACTS:

  • killing and destroying wildlife species
  • inflicting injury which cripples and/or impairs the reproductive system of wildlife species
  • trading of wildlife
  • collecting, hunting, or possessing wildlife
  • gathering or destroying of active nests, nest trees, hosts plants
  • maltreating and/or inflicting other injuries
  • transporting of wildlife

So what do we do?

  • Let us all be responsible stewards. We should take care and be proud of the amazing natural environment our country has been blessed with. We shouldn’t buy Philippine wildlife to be kept as pets! They belong in the wild. As a child, I used to beg my dad for a myna and never got one. It’s only now that I understood his reasons: they should be kept free in the wild.
  • Let us all be advocatesIf you are engaged in hunting, it is time to stop. If we have relatives or friends engaged in hunting, we should do our part in helping them realize the consequences of their past time. Remember, times have changed. Your lolo who used to hunt in the forests by himself now has lots of grandchildren who are hunting in what remains of the destroyed forests. Tama na.
  • Let us all be vigilant. If we see incidents such as hunting, wildlife trade of Philippine native species, and other forms of abuse to the environment, it is our responsibility to report them. You may report illegal activities to the Biodiversity Management Bureau (formerly the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau). Their phone number is +(63 2) 9246031-35 and +(63 2) 9240109. More contact information can be found here.

Let’s all do our part… no matter how sad and hopeless the situation may seem.

The sad incident of the dead Colasisi got me writing a poem to express my sadness. It was the first time I held a bird in my hand. Sadly, it was already dead.

I held a bird in my hand today
It was small and soft and tiny
It felt warm and fragile in my palm
Its bright green feathers were so shiny

I held a bird in my hand today
It had just let out its last breath
I felt the warmth slowly leaving its body
A innocent life sentenced to death

I held a bird in my hand today
And I struggled hard not to cry
The bird had landed at birders feet
As if it had chosen where to die

Memo_IMG_20140511_073647

I held a bird in my hand today
It doesn’t make for a happy story
A single bullet took its life
A poor victim to some men’s folly

I held a bird in my hand today
It has been hours, but my tears still fall
My sadness is laced with rising anger
There is no logic to this at all…

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3 thoughts on “A Call for Conservation

  1. Pingback: June 2014 | e-BON

  2. Pingback: A Call for Conservation | Onnie Espeña

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