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Parakeets' plight protested

November 18, 2005 | Monk Parakeet
by KEN DIXON, as published in the Connecticut Post

Animal rights activists began a life-or-death campaign Thursday to persuade the United Illuminating Co. to call off its monk-parakeet-eradication efforts.

"The great majority of people think these birds are pretty and shouldn't be exterminated," said Priscilla Feral, president of the nonprofit Friends of Animals. "We sent out an alert, and we're channeling that vocal opposition to the chairman of the [UI] board, Nathaniel Woodson." Feral said that thousands of e-mails were sent to members, targeting Woodson, CEO of UI's parent company.

She said the phones at her group's Norwalk headquarters were ringing steadily in reaction to Thursday's article in the Connecticut Post that first detailed the eradication program.

The UI, however, will continue tearing down more than 100 nests on utility poles from West Haven to Fairfield and turning over captured monk parakeets to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for research and euthanasia, spokesmen said. The utility company claims the huge stick nests present a hazard, causing fires and power outages.

USDA workers euthanize the bright-green tropical birds in carbon dioxide chambers, said Corey Slavitt, a USDA spokeswoman in Washington. The method is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, she said, adding the program is aimed at balancing the needs of humans and animals.

Meanwhile, Dwight Smith, chairman of the Biology Department at Southern Connecticut State University, whose graduate students have studied the parakeets, called for a moratorium on the killings.

Smith said he's "irritated and angry."

He said that the state Department of Environmental Protection and UI have consistently avoided questions about monk parakeets, as whole colonies of the birds mysteriously vanished in recent years.

"If they need to remove them from the poles, why kill them?" Smith said. "A study needs to be done. At least, why don't we have a round-table discussion?"

Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation for the Fairfield-based Connecticut Audubon Society, said that even though the state has classified the parakeets as an "invasive species," they apparently do not compete with native birds for habitat or food.

"UI's position is that any bird that builds a nest in their poles deserves to die," Feral said, calling for a regional mobilization of animal-rights activists. Feral called UI's campaign "hysterical."

Al Carbone, spokesman for UI, said the company was fielding "a lot" of news media inquiries Thursday.

He said he spoke with Feral, who "expressed her disappointment with what's going on." But he said UI will continue the nighttime removal and capture plan. As of Wednesday, 47 of the birds had been killed. Slavitt did not have an updated number.

Steve Baldwin, a Manhattan Internet marketer who runs a Web page about monk parakeets in Brooklyn, said Consolidated Edison, the utility there, submitted to public pressure to keep the birds alive, even if the nests on utility poles are demolished.

"I'm absolutely outraged," he said of the UI eradication program. "It looks like Connecticut is wiping them out and I'm very, very angry about this."

Baldwin said Con Ed monitors about 130 nests in Brooklyn, most of them centered around Brooklyn College.

PSE&G, the giant New Jersey utility, also has favored the nonviolent way of removing monk parakeets when possible. Rather than nighttime confrontation with a colony in the autumn, PSE&G uses a springtime, daylight tactic, destroying the nests but letting the animals fly away and establish new nests for the breeding season.

Regular maintenance of poles would help keep the birds away and in the large fir trees and deciduous hardwoods where most of the estimated 1,000 Connecticut monk parakeets live.

Bull, of the Connecticut Audubon Society, said that while Audubon supports this eradication effort, the birds have carved out an ecological niche for themselves since they arrived around 1971.

"They're great birds," he said. He added that winter weather restricts them to the coast, where they feed on rose hips, beach plums and bayberry.

"In South America they're considered an agricultural pest," Bull said. "I have not noticed any situation, beyond a peripheral level, where monk parakeets have been competing with native birds."

More information about the monk parakeets is available at www.friendsofanimals.org; www.brooklynparrots.com and www.edgewaterparrots.com.

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How very sad in this era when biodiversity is on the wane, such special vistors as parrots from the tropics should not only be displaced but killed!!

...There is no reason to kill those birds. Instead of killing them maybe they could place them in outside aviaries. How about a zoo or someplace like that?

It is now 8:18pm on Friday, November 18, 2005. I have just watched as UI Co. workers captured parakeets from their nest on the pole next door to my house. I asked the employees of the UI Co. why they were continuing to disrupt the nests and remove the parakeets. One of them said this was his job, that the UI Co. was getting a bad rap and it was not the UI Co. who initiated this. It was my understanding that the UI Co. did initiate this. He then told me the nests will probably remain for the next couple of months but they were taking the parakeets. I expressed my heartfelt concern that they are killing beautiful birds and that there are other ways of taking care of this situation without killing them. Another gentleman, I believe from the Humane Society, walked up to me and explained the reasons for this removal. He told me there are no laws in CT for capture and release of the parakeets and if they are released they would return to the same pole and rebuild their nest. He pointed out that the birds were captured in a soft netting and were not harmed. I watched the spectacle in the dark as they took the net to a waiting vehicle. I don't know how many birds were in the net but I heard them calling out. I wish I could have stopped them. I have enjoyed the parkeets and their babies for several years and I feel helpless and sad that a HUMANE option was not chosen. I know there are many others who feel as I do. I hope someone in authority will step up and stop this. Killing the parakeets is a horrible way to solve the problem.

I was in the area of park st. and campbell ave. tonight. The UI was taking the parakeets on park street. I walked towards the UI truck and smelled a smell I've never smelt before. I smelled it from a block away. As the truck left I became very dizzy and my skin is stll burning. That was over a hour ago.

I live in the neighborhood where many of these parakeets live. They come to my bird feeder and are wonderful animals. The UI company talked about this last year but there was a lot of public outcry. This year, they snuck out in the middle of the night to start with thier killing. They say that other options have not worked. What about burying the power lines in these shoreline areas to avoid the problem altogether? I'm sure they will say it's too costly, rates will go up, etc., but why not look into it? There are other parts of the country wher power lines are buried.

I'm heartsick. There is a reason why these birds have survived, against odds, for this long. There are no alternatives other than killing them? And to use them for research? Research for WHAT??? We can find a place for them. Below is the email address of out governor, Jodi Rell. Please email her and ask her to stop this and find another way... Governor.Rell@po.state.ct.us

The killing of the monk parrots that have adapted to our environment is no different than the destruction of a species that has adapted to changes in the Amazon. A lawsuit is needed to stop the killing of these magnificant birds! If an attorney is reading this...please step forward with your expertise and protect these birds. They are capturing them at night because birds have no night vision and are blind to their captors!!! What a disgusting commentary on how callous UI decision-makers are! THIS CAN ONLY BE STOPPED BY A LAWSUIT...SOMEONE PLEASE INITIATE THIS....these birds can be moved to any of the thousands of acres of open space land that our government has provided special funding for. We are the government....our taxes balance out the tax incentives....therefore we should be able to use these open lands for preserves for these monk parrots---RELOCATE THEM, DON"T KILL THEM!!!!

On Connecticut's first real winter night, 30 of us gathered in downtown West Haven to protest the killing of the state's monk parakeets. Many came with a story. One man spoke of the birds outside his window which he has visited for years. He listened to their songs each day while writing songs of his own. The monks were a reflection of his own music. Yet yesterday just hours before the protest he awoke to an abandoned nest; the birds were captured, netted and then gassed by the partnership of United Illuminating and the government's own United States Department of Agriculture. Another local resident came with his two daughters. Residing just minutes from the killings that night, the family remained hopeful that they would still be able to wander down their streets in the coming months, listening to the monks sing. This optimism set forth on the corner of Campbell Street and Captain Thomas Boulevard in downtown West Haven. Protesters held signs and handed out petitions amid honks from supportive drivers. Channel 8 news caught this initial action. While we stood our ground, two other protesters searched vigorously for the UI trucks; the vehicles which would hold up the men trapping the birds. At about 8:45 p.m., they were found performing their last capture of the evening. We marched, with signs in tow, onto Park street to confront the captors. We followed a burning, acidic smell to the base of their truck. But when they saw us coming they packed up and drove away. Running out front, I managed to follow the truck for a few more blocks to "Chick's" parking lot, housing a local eatery on East Street. While waiting for my fellow protesters to catch up, I heard laughter. The men who had facilitated the killing of more than 30 birds were bellowing. Yet it wasn't long before this laughter was countered by the angry protesters. The workers were asked how they could sleep at night, what their motives were, and just why and how they could perform such a heartless act. They recoiled. Many said "they were just doing their jobs" and defended their methods as humane and good for the public. After the arrival of three cop cars, our protest subsided -- for the night. We intend to continue to speak out and to stop these unjust actions. Laurel Lundstrom, Friends of Animals

We should organize "blackouts" where everyone turns off their lights for a certain amount of time every night until the UI stops the killing. Economics will help the company reconsider its policy. Also, I emailed Nathaniel Woodson and told him that I'm not putting up Christmas lights this year. What would the impact on the UI's profits be if everyone in Connecticut refused to put up lights? Finally, why is the government financing this policy?

I do not know all of the circumstances that deem it necessary to kill innocent birds, but killing unsuspecting birds or other living creatures should never be part of any solution. And to think that the Audubon, an organization that is supposed to advocate for the rights of birds, justifies this is unconscionable. In Brooklyn Quakers live in harmony with the community, why not in Connecticut? Perhaps the architects who rehomed the nest of Pale Male can help here. At any rate, this does not surprise me since man will never be happy until he has destroyed all life around him and will find any excuse to kill. No matter how you look at it, this is nothing but a cold-hearted mass murder. There was no trial, no judge or jury with the executioner being the State of Connecticut, while the Audubon who is supposed to protect our birds sealed their fates by giving their approval. I am suggesting stopping all donations and memberships to the Audubon and any other organizations responsible for this holocaust behavior. I am synonomously outraged and saddened by the evil of mankind who fails to even try to live peacefully with his fellow beings that co-exist on our planet. This is yet another atrocity in the pages of the history of man's relationship with his fellow creatures, human and otherwise.

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