Some interesting questions have been asked about this campaign and we believe interesting questions deserve good answers. So here is a little question and answer post to help you better understand why this is so very important.
Consider this your very own Boycott NCL FAQ. Feel free to copy, paste and share.
1. How were the birds or other critters (the rare or protected or nationally symbolic ones in particular) acquired in the first place?
The toucans were a ‘gift’ from a private individual that had the birds for several years. How he got a licence is unknown: toucans are not covered by the recent captive wildlife licence programme for legally grandfathering in captive parrots. Harvest Caye (the Island) have an FD permit to keep 4 toucans. Permits are non-transferable; therefore if the original owner had a legal permit from FD, the transfer had to be done under permit by the Forest Department. We have reason to believe that one toucan has already died and that two more replaced that one.
If this is the case, they already have more toucans than permitted.
One of the macaws (Rosey) was confiscated from the illegal pet trade by Forest Dept and taken to the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic. Apparently the bird has lost the tip of one wing – either by accident or human design - cannot fly and is therefore not releasable. Non-releasable macaws have always gone to The Belize Zoo to form part of their education programmes and as ambassadors and fundraisers for Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD)'s work in the Chiquibul.
No-one other than FD or the Wildlife Clinic knew of the existence of this bird. No opinion was sought over the disposition of the bird. Rosey was ‘kept’ in the care of the Clinic founder/director Dr Isabelle Paquet Durant. Dr Durant is also a founder/director of the Harvest Caye Conservation foundation who is responsible for the birds on the Caye.
The other macaw (Big Red) was also confiscated but on this occasion, Belize Bird Rescue (BBR) was providing logistic, handling and assessment support during routine licence inspections. As a result, the bird came to BBR for care and rehabilitation and assessment for whatever disposition was eventually determined based on physical and mental suitability. This is completely normal and routine for every species of parrot: macaws are parrots and it was seen perfectly reasonable that an outwardly healthy young macaw should go to BBR as the Government of Belize’s designated psittacine rehabilitation centre.
Big Red was being held pending testing for any virus or infections that would have precluded re-release to the Chiquibul. He was less than a year old and outwardly healthy. BBR was prevented from the then Wildlife Officer and Dr Durant from carrying out standard tests via a lab in the UK . BBR was told by both of these people that CITES prevented samples from being dispatched without permit: this is absolutely false – blood and serum samples for lab testing is not considered as a recognisable part of the bird and therefore is exempt from such legislation.
Dr Durant insisted on acquiring permits and then failed to find anyone outside of Belize prepared to apply for the appropriate import permits. In the 7 months Big Red was at BBR, no tests were ever done, so we have no idea if he would have been a suitable candidate for rehab for release. As a result, a perfectly healthy juvenile wild macaw is now in permanent captivity for the remainder of his natural life – which should be anything up to 80 years and beyond.
2. Where were they living and who was looking after them prior to their relocation?
Big Red arrived at BBR on October 25th 2016. Rosey apparently arrived at the clinic in March 2017. Both birds were transferred out to Harvest Caye on May 23 2017.
We have no idea where Rosey was actually being kept. We can't find anyone who observed Rosey whilst visiting the Wildlife Clinic which makes us think she was kept at Dr Durant’s home. This is just speculation though.
BBR cared for Big Red. He was quarantined for in a screened room for 40 days, then put into a large outdoor enclosure by himself pending these ‘tests’ which would determine if he was clear of disease and releasable.
3. Who let the resort management people or their agents have the birds and other critters for the exhibit?
This is 100% Belize Forest Dept. (FD) No-one else has the authority to transfer birds in this manner. The birds are the property of FD, whatever the circumstances – and they can do exactly as they please with them and we have no power to prevent them removing the birds.
4. Were they purchased outright and, if so, is that legal and who benefited financially from the sale?
We have absolutely no idea – no discussion or dialogue was entered into by FD with their mandated avian wildlife partners of 11 years.
5. If this was obviously wrong at the time, (is it wrong, or are there loopholes in the laws?) why was nothing done then to stop this?
Refer to 2 and 3a. And believe us, objections were raised. But BBR were given less than 2 hours from notice to removal to prepare the bird for transport. Not only was this unethical, it is inappropriate and detrimental to transfer a wild bird in such a rushed and unplanned way, and against all protocols (BBR’s and international standards). There was no discussion, interaction, opinion or consultation with BBR or any of the other wildlife partners and expert panels put into place by the FD themselves to prevent exactly this kind of thing happening.
6. Who or which organization is now looking after the animals at the site?
Harvest Caye Conservation Foundation are responsible for the macaws. There are 4 founder-directors: Dr Durant, Mr Trejo, Mr Garel and Mr Belisle. We have documentation to support this.
There is no legal entity responsible for the toucans, snakes, iguana and butterflies. Harvest Caye no longer exists as a Belizean Company – they were removed from the Register in 2016. Therefore, it would seem FD’s permit to Harvest Caye is no longer valid as the entity is no longer in existence. We assume that Mr Garel is caring for them - he is the Harvest Caye animal manager. We understand that the facility is not staffed on weekends so we have no idea who cares for them then or how.
7. Directing a boycott activity toward a large corporation is one thing and there may be some elements of that action that have success. Certainly, raising awareness about owning rare or protected birds or other critters is good... However, stopping the action in the first place -- in other words, someone saying "...no, you can't have this macaw, and here's why..." would have been a better, but likely more challenging, course of action.
No one was given any opportunity to do so – and FD did this because they knew it would be challenged and they were unlikely to pass those challenges.
This is NOT the first time something like this has happened, which is why we are so determined that it will not be allowed to pass without challenge this time. Otherwise, what's to stop other foreign companies staring their own animal side shows for profit.
8. In the meantime, if the big birds are removed from Harvest Caye, where will they go?
To The Belize Zoo and/or to BBR- anywhere but for exclusive public display in a foreign corporation
The list of objections to this operation is extensive. The guise of Harvest Caye Conservation Foundation is a smoke-screen for corporate greed on several levels involving the Wildlife Institute – a study-abroad business operated by the directors of the Wildlife Clinic, and by Norwegian Cruise Lines – a for-profit industry with a track record of environmental disregard.
NCL had alternatives. Good alternatives. They chose to go this route and they must bear the brunt of the consequences.
This is NOT just going to go away.