Planning Ahead

9th June 2010

What I look for in a sanctuary:

1:- It must have a life of its own and be self sustaining.

2:- It must provide at least the same quality of life that my babies enjoy now.

3:- It must be a large flight and not indoor cages. Outside flight and protected area to be at least the same size as they are used to.

4:- It must be able to supply the correct food and climate to ensure an optimum life.

5:- It must have a knowledgeable avian vet available.

6:- The group can not be broken up.

7:- They are never allowed to sell them or their offspring.


This is not an easy task and I am afraid most of us take the usual escape route by saying (or thinking) “My family will look after them”. One cannot expect others to give up their lives to take on parrots that, if looked after correctly, are a major investment in time and money as well as a major transition in ones life.

It is not fair on your feathered loved ones to palm them off after giving you a life of pleasure. Plan now, don’t delay another day.


A couple of years ago I noticed a small paragraph in one of our local newspapers about a project to build a massive free-flight aviary near the coast in South Africa. After that nothing until recently I picked up on an article in the local bird magazine that really peaked my interest and so I phoned around until I contacted the sanctuary itself and at last my hope soared that I had found “The right place” for my babies. I particularly liked their comment “Make happy endings to sad stories”.


Called BIRDS OF EDEN it is expected to be completed by December 2005. To all intents and purposes it is Eden. The bird parks unique aviary is 2,3 hectare (5,7 acre), the worlds largest, even bigger than the Millennium Dome in the UK. From the germ of an idea to expected completion has been almost a 5 year project. The cost to date is near 1 million pounds sterling.


I made a list of the Pros, which was easy and have been looking for some cons – without success.

Features that will enhance the life of parrots lucky enough to live here:

1:- The gigantic free-flight enclosed area covers indigenous forest including a natural gorge, area covered is about 237 000m² (2,5 million square foot). Overall length of the aviary is 257m (843 foot) and width is 100m (328 foot).

2:- The sanctuary’s dome incorporates the ability to synthesise thunder and create short spells of rain from an irrigation system in the dome structure.

3:- While the tallest support masts are only 34 metre (112 foot) high the highest point of the dome above ground is 50 metre (164 foot) as the canyon breaks away.

4:- Several dams are incorporated inside.

5:- There is a river and waterfall and the water will be pumped back in a closed system so no pollution of any water sources are possible by the parks existence. The river starts by entering a dam and comes out over the walk behind waterfall before cascading down rapids through the whole bird park.

6:- Birds of Eden will be self funding by charging admission (£8.50 Adults, £4.25 Children).

7:- The park is situated in the Garden Route in South Africa, an area that attracts tourists both local and overseas in their droves so income is assured due to the high standard demanded by the trustees and expected by visitors.

8:- The main objective of the park is to provide a natural and safe environment where previously caged pet parrots (and other birds) can have a second chance in life and enjoy freedom.

9:- Create a caring habitat for animals, specifically birds that have been removed or captive bred and cannot return to their natural habitat.

10:- The sanctuary will look at all captive parrots that are compatible with their conditions. The park has four bird experts in permanent employ and they will make the decision as to accept a bird or not. All birds accepted will have to be cleared of all diseases and de-wormed before being released into the aviary. A lot of parrots will have to be trained to fly and find food in a natural environment.

11:- The sanctuary will be run by a trust while being managed by a curator and a team of ornithologists to ensure the best conditions and diet for the various species.

12:- The landscape horticulturist for the project is tasked with combining the array of birds, their diet and physical requirements, such as nesting materials or nesting space, with the indigenous forest in such a way that its harmony and tranquillity is not disturbed and remains appealing for the public to insure its future sustainability. Exotic plants would be used to forfull both a function for the birds and to add to the ornamental features of the botanical garden feeling.

13:- The thoughtfulness of the sanctuary extends to people as well. The entire project is wheelchair friendly and there are four buildings with toilet facilities.

14:- There is an avian vet always on call.

15:- The welfare of the birds is of paramount importance and in order to do regular check-ups and de-worming, several of the feeding stations will have trap facilities. These would also be used to catch an injured bird.

16:- The birds will be supplied with a proper balanced and nutritious diet at 30 feeding stations throughout the sanctuary but in order to overcome the concern that birds kept in a tiny cage all their lives will not be able to find the feeding station, during the rehabilitation stage the birds have a tune played as their food is being served in their cages. They quickly associate the tune with food. Then the same tune will be played at the feeding stations in the aviary so they can learn where to go for food once released in the forest in the aviary. This practice would gradually be phased out.


For me a forest experience that covers beautiful parrots in a natural environment, a boardwalk and suspension bridge creating a canopy walk combined with water features and a unique floating bridge, amphi-theatre, restaurants and rest areas would be my idea of heaven.


I can only imagine seeing large flocks of the same parrots together enjoying a life I know I wish for my babies. This would be a sight a lot of us have not been privileged to see.


This is not an hours attraction and eco tourists are likely to find themselves spending the day thus creating an international attraction of note.


The fact that South Africa is relatively speaking an inexpensive destination will help to ensure the life of the park for generations to come and I for one cant think of a better place for my babies that give me so much love and pleasure. At last it would seem that I would be able to give them the life they are designed for.


At the time of writing Birds of Eden was nearing completion. Their website is up and running and gives a lot of useful information with regard to accommodation and the surrounding areas which incorporate Monkeyland, a free roaming primate sanctuary which has funded the bird park.

Already 62 pairs of waterfowl from 30 different species have been released.

Written by Trevor before Birds of Eden opened - 2004