It was a Saturday like any other. I was up early feeding my flock, getting my children ready for a long day of cleaning at the Zoo. We were scheduled to start a remodel/massive cleaning on Alvis the Eclectus' cage. I was excited and anxious to get going. By the time I arrived I was a little later than usual. As soon as I pulled in I knew something was going on. I saw two white trucks labeled PROFEPA. Profepa is an organization here in Mexico to help preserve wild animals/birds native to Mexico. Immediately my heart sunk to my feet. I knew why they were there. I reluctantly walked over where I saw a group of them speaking with the owner of the Zoo. They said they were there based off a complaint that the Zoo was not properly caring for their animals and had some birds that were acquired illegally. They then asked us to show them around. As I walked around explaining the change in diets we had made and the upcoming changes they seemed pleased.
Finally we reached the food area, which is where we had been housing a lot of Zoo surrenders who had not been integrated into the enclosures with everyone else, mostly because these were all Zoo dropffs or surrenders that we knew little to nothing about. I sat down with Profepa explaining what I do and what I plan to do. They seemed pleased and even asked me some questions regarding proper nutrition and care for the birds. They told me that if the Zoo was unable to clean up its establishment in six months and provide a better environment for the animals and birds they would have to be closed down and animals would be seized. Then they proceeded to tell me that all of the surrenders in the past year who were not reported to Profepa would be seized today. I could feel a lump in my throat the size of a basketball. I knew what that meant. They would have to seize Penelope the Military Macaw who I had been working with the last 8 months and felt like she was one of my own. It took me a minute to even be able to breathe.
I asked and then pleaded if there was any way around this. I explained all the progress I had made with her emotionally and medically over the last few months. They repeatedly kept telling me, "Any bird acquired illegally without the consent or approval of Profepa can and will be seized." I stood there as they hauled away five Mexican red heads, one white fronted Amazon, a pair of Military Macaws, six green parakeets and then Penelope. I watched as they wheeled her through the grass screaming and squawking, obviously confused as to where she was going and who were these people. I sat there helpless in the grass, sobbing. Wishing I had known, wishing I could change this. Screaming to please just bring her back to me. Before I knew it they were gone. And I was left there with a hole in my heart the size of a golf ball. I must have sat in the same spot for an hour sobbing. I couldn't even believe it was real. It felt like a bad dream. I couldn't help but think about Marley and how he was "illegal" too.
In an instant they took 15 birds from my care with little to no remorse for my obviously wounded soul. Just the law telling them to remove them.
I will never know where they went or if they know Penelope's favorite food is sweet potato and corn. Will they shower her the way she likes it? Will they give her pine cones for fun? Will someone love her as much as I do? It was one of the most painful experiences in my advocacy. Right up there with Marley being sick. Once I gathered myself I realized I couldn't let this happen to everyone else. I couldn't sit and wonder what happened to them or what would happen. I have to make a change and I have to make it now. I went from enclosure to enclosure while still sobbing promising everyone I would make a difference. That I wouldn't fail them.
I will never forget Penelope and never stop looking for her. She was the reason I woke up at 6:30 on a Saturday. She made me want to help the others at the Zoo. I loved her, and very well may never heal from losing her. But I know Penelope would want me to push on and be strong, and I will. Somehow the pain I endured that day lit a fire in my heart and soul. I want to make a difference here that reaches out past the Zoo and my city. I want to be a voice for all the birds in dark corners of this country. I want to make a difference here and I will, one bird at a time.