The Oasis Sanctuary: A Forever Loving Home for Exotic Birds P2/2    
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Hallo, perceptive viewers, and welcome to Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. On today’s program, we’ll present the concluding episode in our two-part series on The Oasis Sanctuary in Benson, Arizona, USA, a non-profit refuge founded in 1997 by Sybil Erden, a vegetarian, that provides a permanent, loving home for more than 700 rescued exotic birds, including Parrots, Cockatoos, Macaws and other avian species as well as dogs, turkeys, chickens, ducks and swans. Many of these fine birds have special needs as they are disabled or were previously abused or neglected.

Now let’s meet Executive Director of Administration Janet Trumbule, who will give us a tour and introduce us to some of its fascinating residents.

Many years ago, I adopted a little Budgie and that little bird amazed me. I knew nothing about birds and his intelligence just piqued my interest. So I started learning more and more about birds and then I bought a little Cockatiel, and over the years just started caring for larger species, and I started supporting The Oasis, in the mid-1990s, because of my interest in birds. I felt they were doing some good work and helping birds that needed help. And eventually I came down to see the facility. And here I am, four-and-a-half years later, working here with the birds.

The first stop on our tour is the area where the food is prepared for the sanctuary’s precious residents.

This area here is what we call “staging.” We have 700 birds at The Oasis today and that means that we have a lot of food and water bowls that need to be cleaned. And we clean them daily. You can see on the counter here a large amount of bowls. Every single food and water bowl is brought into the staging area to be cleaned every day. So there’s a hand process where we’re washing them in soapy water. And then this is a bleach rinse here. So we disinfect with a bleach rinse, and then rinse again and refill with new food that goes back out to the birds.

In total, we have about 500 food and water bowls that we clean every single day. It takes about four-and-a-half hours with five or six people to do this process every morning. And this is our priority every day, to give the birds their fresh food and water. We feed a seed–and-pellet mix. Over here in these bins behind you are a variety of our everyday foods that the birds get. They get fresh produce.

We mix a fresh vegetable-and-fruit salad for them and we cook pasta and put that in there. And today happens to be a treat day so they don’t get the fruits, but they get nuts and millet, and maybe a cracker and some cereal, things like that, so just a little bit of variety to their diet. So this is the fresh salad that we feed them five days a week.

The Oasis Sanctuary’s mission is to rescue exotic birds who would not otherwise be adopted, some of whom are quite elderly and others permanently disabled. Still others have behavioral problems such as plucking out their own feathers due to years of neglect and/or abuse. Charlene and BJ are two such birds.

This is Charlene and Charlene is a Congo African Grey. And she will allow her feathers to grow in to some extent and then will pluck them out. So she’s pretty plucked right now. But she’s very happy.

Hi, B-man, hi, B-man. This is BJ. BJ is a Moluccan Cockatoo. You can see that he’s in a coat and wears a sweater, because he is a very severe mutilator. He had a very bad start to life. He was purchased as a beloved family pet and from what we know, initially he was loved. He was well taken care of. But at some point the family decided they didn’t want to deal with BJ anymore, so they stuck him in a very small cage, a parakeet-size cage. So a parakeet is three inches long.

He had no toys. He had a horrible seed diet only, and a very small perch to sit on. When he arrived here, he had to actually be cut out of the cage, that’s how small the cage was. He didn’t fit through the door. So while he was spending 14 years in this cage with no interaction and no toys, he decided to start chewing on his feathers, which turned into mutilating. When he came to us, he had a huge hole in his chest where you could actually see muscle. He was in pretty poor shape. So he’s had some skin grafts and has had a lot of treatment.

And today, he’s much happier. He’s not as human-phobic as he was when he arrived, but we do have to keep him collared and keep him wrapped so he cannot access his skin because he will continue to mutilate himself. He’s a pretty good boy.

Exotic birds have very long lifespans, with some living as long as humans!

Timmy was found walking down a beach, I believe it was in South Carolina (USA). And a couple rescued him. They didn’t know much about birds, but they had friends that cared for Charlene at the time. And so they called the friends and said, “We have this little parrot, can you help?” And so they took him in. And Timmy and Charlene bonded.

And ultimately they came here because the couple couldn’t care for them anymore. But an African Grey, a large Congo can live 50 to 60 years if they remain in good health. The larger the bird, the longer the lifespan. A Macaw could easily live 60 or 70 years, the large Cockatoos, 80 years is not uncommon. Phillipe is starting to show his age, he has some health problems now. He’s got kidney disease and cataracts. He’s medicated for the kidney and arthritis issues daily.

This Parrot here is Brutus. She is a Scarlet Macaw and she’s in her 40s. Her son is Doc. He’s in the back and he’s a hybrid Macaw. He’s a Scarlet and Blue-and-Gold hybrid. He actually has handicaps. You can see that his feet are very deformed. And he has a pretty bad case of scoliosis in his upper spine. So he’s a little more limited in his movement, but not much. I mean he acts just like any other bird. He can climb. They get on the ground and walk around. And they are very active. And he’s very active. And she is, of course, very protective of him.

Now you said that you don’t clip any of their wings. Do you see them flying around here much?

Yes, there are birds that will just take off and fly. Some of the birds never learned how to fly. We’ve domesticated these animals and what has happened is humans take them from their parents at a very young age, put them in a little cardboard box and feed them by hand and then sell them, and the birds never fledge. They never learn from their parents how to fly. So when we get them 15 or 20 years later, they may have the ability to fly. They might have their flight feathers, but since they’ve never learned to fly, they just don’t even try. And if we give them the opportunity, a lot of times they fail because they are not strong enough. They don’t have the control.

So you can see like Brutus has flight feathers but he never flies. And Macaws are known for walking. They like to just get down and walk. They don’t fly much. We have some birds out there that are wonderful flyers. But many of them will climb the 100 feet to get to the other end instead of flying there because that’s what they enjoy doing.

Birds often act as our teachers, helping us learn important lessons about life. Ms. Trumbule now discusses some of the things that the birds at The Oasis have taught her.

Gosh, patience, lots of patience and commitment. With their long life and their needs, you have to be very dedicated to these animals if you want to give them a wonderful life. I have younger birds at home. I think my oldest is about 28 now. He’s an African Grey, and so I’m going to have these birds probably the rest of my life. And I’ll have to ensure that they have care when I’m gone.

Some of them will probably outlive me. So I think just learning how to live your life and being dedicated is difficult. And to make it work you really have to learn how to make your life fit for the birds. And it’s hard. And that’s why we have a lot of birds here because people do try to make it work and something changes and it just isn’t possible for them any longer to keep their pets.

I have also learned a lot about diet. I wasn’t a really great eater until I got my birds. And because I feed my birds such healthy food, I tend to eat a little better myself, which is good. I’m chopping fruits and vegetables for them every morning which I pick on.

And I make myself a lot more salads than I would otherwise, probably. But nutritionally, their needs are very unique, and so I’ve had to learn for them and that’s helped me personally as well.

The Oasis Sanctuary is often asked to take in more birds, but they currently must decline almost all requests, because they’re operating at full capacity. However, plans are being made to improve and expand the facilities.

We actually have in the works the design for a new bird building, which will have a state-of-the-art kitchen. This was a porch and you can see that all those counters and sinks were second-hand items that were picked up. So we’re definitely in need of better equipment. We would love to have a commercial dishwasher to help the process speed up.

For taking wonderful and wholehearted care of vulnerable exotic birds, Supreme Master Ching Hai is honoring The Oasis Sanctuary and Sybil Erden with the Shining World Compassion Award and US$10,000 with gratitude and all love for the noble work.

May Heaven bless you, President and founder Sybil Erden, Executive Director Janet Trumbule and all the other wonderful staff members at The Oasis Sanctuary, for your devoted work providing a loving, permanent home for exotic birds in need. Your dedication is truly exemplary, and may all the bird residents continue to enjoy safety and comfort at the sanctuary.

For more information on The Oasis Sanctuary, please visit

Considerate viewers, thank you for joining us today on Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. May all beings on Earth enjoy long lives of dignity and freedom.
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