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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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Comments

I am so heartbroken over this--I can barely read about what they are doing to these wonderful animals. What can we realistically do to stop this? I feel like petitions and letters don't make enough of an impact. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. If another protest is to be organized, I am there--or if anyone wants to put one together I would love to help. If there is a way to relocate the parrots I am already there to volunteer. Please email me, laurakist@aol.com. If that horrible company is so upset about the parrots residing on their poles, they should use the murder money to make the poles undesirable to the birds. This is an outrage.

I just cannot believe here in connecticut one of the richest states in the country and were acting like a third world country on this issue, other states seem to be in touch with this more than us,where is the outrage? why in the world is killing these beatifull animals the first option? yeah i know they say we tried other methods lets ask ourselves this what kind of people are we that we cannot stop these senseless killings this is our enviroment also, please lets save these beatiful animals they bring a lot of us joy.

I sent an email (posted above on November 19th) to Milan Bull and received a lengthy reply. I then asked for a clarification and received, verbatim, the same lengthy reply with nothing added. It is, word for word, the same letter posted by Mr. Bull (an interesting name in this instance, I think) to this group. In other words, this is a canned response. Mr. Comins's statement contains several ugly notions, among them that if a bird becomes a "nuisance to people," it can be put to death. Over the years I've watched the idea grow among certain "naturalists" that nonnative species can or should be exterminated. It seems to come from people who have no authentic love for or experience of nature, but enjoy abstract theories. If I am right-thinking, should I be willing to stand by cooly and watch the parrots here in San Francisco be destroyed? I'm still waiting to hear back from National Audubon. If the kill nonnative species idea is gaining ground within Audubon, then the organization has become pernicious.

I, too, am sickened by the killing of Monk Parakeets in Connecticut. Even though I don't live in Ct. my family and I will never buy anything made in Ct.

My neighborhood has been home to countless families of monk parakeets for more than a decade now. They are beautiful and clean birds who have acclimated to the unpredictable and often harsh winters of the Connecticut shoreline. Killing these birds is quick, indefensible, and unconscionable. Isn't the extermination of these creatures when they are the most vulnerable just one more tragic example of the arrogance of uneducated and unaware people who feel entitled to, even justified in, their destruction of living things whose only aim is survival. It's easy to destroy life; any idiot can do it. It takes brainpower, compassion, and commitment to preserve life.

Since when was suffocating animals to death humane? I live in New York City and enjoy watching the Quaker Parrots that reside in my neighborhood. I'm devastated to hear of your local utility company's ''solution'' to this problem and where as I cannot make a physical presence, I would like to know if there is any way I can help.

IT ISN'T ROCKET SCIENCE. The osprey nesting platforms in Florida are a good example...but the osprey is a native species and thus protected; the Quakers are not. We did a great job of eliminating the Carolina Parakeet...I wonder how the individuals directly involved in the killing feel about this extermination attempt. It's a sad commentary on human beings and on Connecticut. What can we do? Not much, except to publicize the carnage; on a strictly PR level, this is terrible for the utilities and Connecticut. Make your charitable gifts to organizations that can help fight this type of cruelty.

Why do these people have to kill these cute little monk parakeets? The people slaughtering and gasing the are cruel and they should just move the nest instead of doing the to them. How could manager of the company, Mr. Woodson, sleep at night wanting to kill the inocent birds? Did we slaughter and gas the Pilgrims when they took over our land? I don't think so! As my teacher Mrs. Helen Brown explains, man is cruel!

i Also am outraged by the killing of these birds. they have just as much right to live as we do. .. Dont kill the birds!! Find another way. Thank You!

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