The Forest department, Orange Walk Office in collaboration with the Belize Bird Rescue has taken on an initiative that seeks to save a species in the country's diverse wildlife population.

These are parrots of which a great number, by their count, are in captivity. Last night the officers held a meeting in Orange Walk to educate the public on how to keep captive parrots healthy and also on the laws of Belize.

According to Hannah Martine, Officer in Charge of the Orange Walk Forest Station, the main objective of their campaign is to help maintain a viable population of parrots in Belize, which is unfortunately dwindling.

Hannah Martinez- Forest Department

"We notice that the population in itself is dwindling and we have a very high turnover of parrots in captivity meaning someone who has a parrot and five years down the line they have a different species of a differ parrot when parrots normally live up to a hundred years some so we realize that part of the problem is really that there is little information and education on how to keep your parrot healthy and how to maintain a viable parrot population in Belize."

So the Forest department has embarked on educating the communities in Orange Walk on the proper care of parrots and on the wildlife protection Act. This law ensure the safety and viablility of wildlife populations in the country, and these include parrots.

Hannah Martinez- Forest Department

"The only reason why we are allowing parrots versus the other that we don't, they are so common and it is part of the culture people become emotionally tied up to the parrots but notwithstanding the emotional bond we still need to put the health of parrots as priority so we were visiting homes with parrots and giving them the minimum requirements that they need to have to keep that parrot; for example the size of the cage, we would teach the kind of feed that they need to give to those parrots, we would also look at the state of health of those parrots, we also ask them to come into the department to seek an application form because to have a parrot you need to have a permit from the forest department though it is free of charge but it is a way of monitoring where we have parrots and to monitor if we have a rapid turnover of one parrot owner or one parrot to the next. The problem is that when domesticated or when in captivity parrots are not as productive as it would be in the wild, a wild parrot can produce up to 18 offspring, most parrots in captivity don't have any offspring, most parrots in the wild live up to one hundred years if you take care of them properly but we have persons with a rapid turnover of 5 to 6 years when the parrots die."

The campaign is being conducted only in the Orange Walk District but the hope is to extend it eventually to the rest of the country. According to Martinez, in one day they visit up to ten homes and in some homes that they have visited, there are up to six parrots. She stresses the importance on educating the public on how to care for these birds because it can prompt many to reconsider releasing the birds into the wild where they stand a better possibility of reproducing.

Hannah Martinez- Forest Department

"The response hasn't been bad at all I think it is all about the approach when I go there it is not to say I want your parrot give me your parrot no, I first educate the persons, we take a look at the parrot, we look at the housing situation and I always make them now that I am not here to frighten you but to work with you, I am here to tell you that if you have that parrot let's get him healthy , let see what we could do and so at the beginning most persons are bit apprehensive because they think that you are just coming to take away your pet because for many of these people those parrots are like a child or s sibling you become really attached to your pet or your dog, cat or fish or is it a turtle people become attached to their pets and so at the beginning most persons are apprehensive but when you relate to them and dialogue with them they realize then ok she isn't a freight I could work with her I could get my permit free of charge, I could get my parrot to a healthy stage, I could keep that family member that could be that parrot and so I want people to know that it is not about taking the parrot but we and the only reason why we taken parrots because we had to take a few today is because they were sick and many of them based on the condition that they were I could tell you that if I didn't take them by next week they might have been dead but I still can say if they will survive because those parrots were really, really sick."

As mentioned before, the department is working with the Belize Bird Rescue Center which rehabilitates domesticated parrots and can provide adequate and appropriate health services to animals that are in bad or even terrible health conditions. Martinez says however that the best thing is to NOT keep parrots but to leave them in their natural habitats. The community must understand that however small they may be, these birds play an important role in the environmental stability of Belize.