The island of Syros, Greece is located in the South Aegean Sea. It is a small, sparsely populated (about 21,000 persons) island accessible by 4 hour ferry ride from the mainland. It would also seem in many ways a little bit of distance (although not so easily measurable) in time from the present day. While it has most of the modern amenities most people come to take for granted, you will not find a 24 hour restaurant or market anywhere on the island. Nor will you find a stoplight or a drive-thru. The people you see while out and about on one day are very likely to be the same people you will see on the next, and the one after.
Although there is not much to offer by way of pet stores, still a majority of people seem to keep animals of one sort or another as pets. The problem is, that most of these pets seem to be kept more as possessions than companions, and too often they are cast aside, leading to a very large stray cat and dog society. While out walking or driving, I also notice that many people keep caged birds on their porches and balconies. Many of these birds come from the one (out 4 total) pet stores who actually does trade in live animals. By American terms ( since I am from the States this must be my frame of reference) it would seem a small and poorly stocked pet store, but by island terms it is a pet keepers paradise. And, from my limited experience, I would have to guess that by Greek terms it would also seem to be such; the few stores I have visited n the mainland did not seem much better equipped for providing pet needs in a satisfying manner. And while I love ALL animals, as well as sharing my home with 1 rabbit, 1 dog, 1 canary, 2 cats and 4 parrots, I would like to talk more specifically about caring for parrot needs.
I would also like to mention the lack of veterinary care available to birds kept on the island. While there are 2 veterinary clinics here on Syros, providing 3 Veterinarians for the care of island animals, none of them know much about birds, as I have learned from personal experience, and so any satisfactory care, or wellness exam requires a 4 hour ferry ride to the mainland, as well as an overnight stay. But still, I believe, an avian companion can be kept here in a responsible manner if provided with those things needed to ensure a proper diet, emotional well being and mental stimulation. The real problem in keeping an avian companion here is more a problem of understanding and caring. And this problem stretches the distance all the way from the home (which needs to see to it's basic and comfort needs) to the veterinarian which must see to the more advanced difficult to understand needs.
About 3 years ago, a new pet store opened on the island. The owner of said store somehow decided that it would be a good idea to introduce a large variety of exotic animals into the island pet trade, where previously this kind of pet trade was minimal. There were quite a few birds, but mostly canaries and a few cockatiels. There were also a few larger parrots, but most of these were kept as pets. And so, this new pet store, along with sugar gliders, iguanas, chipmunks, hamsters and chinchillas, began to bring a few more exotic species of parrot to the island. Suddenly there were Quakers, Parrotlets, Ring-necks and other species of specialized needs animals on the island. To make things more difficult, there was little to no understanding of how to care for these needs, and so in a way very real and very irresponsible new lives were brought here to be put into careless hands.
It has been about 2 years now since the day my wife came home from this pet store to inform me that while shopping there for cat and dog food she had noticed there was one bird near the entrance door of the store standing on the bottom of its'cage with its'head down and eyes closed looking very bad. After a bit of discussion about this (I had actually stopped going to this store as the state in which the animals were being kept left me in dismay and I felt better not witnessing it), I had my wife call the store owner and tell her that if she would like to give the bird over into our care I would see if perhaps we could help her in some way. She agreed, and so little Zoey the yellow IRN came home. Because her eyes were closed with a sort of mucus surrounding them, the owner had assumed she had an eye infection and was treating her for such. The poor little bird was very week, and in a state very obviously near death. Still, something had to be done to try and help her. One of the first things we noticed, was that there was infestation of mites moving in and out of sight between her feathers. After several phone conversations with my avian vet located in the States, we decided that firstly she would need a treatment of Ivermectin for the mites, and then decide where to go from there. Unfortunately this treatment was as far as she got; soon after a trip to the local vet she died in my wifes hand.
Of course we needed so much more than a phone consult with a worlds away doctor, but this is not possible on the island of Syros. And more importantly, these beautiful, sensitive animals need informed, responsible care from the beginning of their introduction into our hands until the end of their time with us (if this time is to come). And regardless of whether you are a store owner, or a prospective buyer, they need to be understood in a manner more befitting a living being, than one suitable only for an object. With this in mind, I have made it a point to visit the store more often since the death of Zoey, and to try and offer the benefit of my limited understanding of birds. I have since helped to cure a Rock-pebbler of a vit-a deficiency, as well as convinced the woman owner to start carrying pellets as a food for parrots. She also now tells prospective bird owners that veggies and fruits should be added to diets. Previously, it had been thought a seed based diet was enough. (much as it had been thought by many parrot companions 20 or more years ago, before we began to understand more about diet).
And so now, twice a week I find myself at a store I despise being in, trying to help a merchant understand the importance of diet, mental enrichment (toys), and so on. And I visit the birds, and talk to them all. I tell them how beautiful they are, and how sorry I am I cannot give them all a better home, diet, cage-free time, etc. Each and every one! I tell them all I love them (which is true), and how badly I wish to see the betrayal of their beautiful nature end. They do not belong in the hands of humans, but they can thrive therein if only humans will take the time to care and try to understand.
Thank you all for stopping by to hear about the island of Syros. It is my island paradise, but unfortunately for some it is no more than a prison of neglect inspired by human greed and carelessness