Sanctuary by Leslie Boucher
I met a very special woman, Sybil
Erden, on a cockatoo e-mailing list several years ago. Sybil runs the Oasis Sanctuary out
of her home. The Oasis was established to create a refuge and sanctuary for unwanted pet
birds, retired or unproductive breeder birds and for "special needs" or
handicapped birds. The Oasis Sanctuary Foundation, LTD., was incorporated in the State Of
Arizona, they also received 501-C non-profit status in 1997. The Oasis Sanctuary's goals
are as follows: (1) To provide permanent "retirement" housing and care for any
and all psitticine birds (other than those with fatal contagious diseases). (2)To educate
the consumer public about the proper care of exotic birds (3) to develop and establish a
national avian rescue data base of individuals and organizations able to assist in the
rescue and rehabilitation of exotic birds either in need or at risk.
The Oasis will accept Psittacines of any age. Birds with special needs, handicaps and
non-contagious illnesses will receive special care and housing as their requirements
demand. Older birds are welcome and will be housed either with their mate or with others
of their species in large flights. Birds with behavioral problems (aggression, plucking,
excessive noise or destructiveness) are also accepted. The Oasis offers loving care,
housing and health maintenance for the lifetime of accepted birds. They do not do
adoptions and do not sell or breed birds. It came into existence approximately four years
ago when the founder/director, Sybil Erden realized that there were more of these regal
and highly intelligent birds than life-long, loving homes. Like many aviculturists, Sybil
began as a "backyard" breeder, with a few pairs of small birds, but stopped
breeding, pulled the nest boxes after a few years, and began taking in "second hand
birds". Before long, she was taking in birds from friends and family, for local
veterinarians...and after going on-line on the Internet, found herself taking in birds
from all over the country.
The number of birds has gone from 20 smaller parrots four years ago, to well over a 100
birds currently. As always, new residents are expected almost weekly. There are birds,
ranging from budgies and lovebirds to cockatoos and macaws. Among the special needs birds,
there is a beakless budgie who has to be hand fed three times a day and a cripple-legged
cockatoo whose room's flooring is extra-soft carpeting to keep her from getting pressure
sores. The Oasis is home to several pairs of retired breeding birds. The female of one
pair of Macaws is estimated to be 75 years old! Others have been bounced from home to
home, often being physically and/or emotionally abused and have simply become too fearful
of people to be "pets" any longer. Since many of the birds are not interested in
human interaction, they will "pair-up" (in a non breeding situation) or create
flock situations for birds of same or similar, compatible species.
Of course, The Oasis Sanctuary also is home to a number of perfectly
"normal", healthy and contented birds, whose owners brought them there when life
changes precluded the continuation of their caring for their beloved pets.
From time to time The Oasis has temporary residents as well: Lost birds waiting to be
connected with their owners and baby or injured wild birds recuperating and awaiting
The Oasis Sanctuary is currently housed on an acre property in a residential
neighborhood in Phoenix Arizona. They desperately need larger facilities to continue their
work. Currently The Oasis Sanctuary is in the process of looking for and acquiring acreage
in the Tubac, Arizona area for future development and a permanent home for these birds.
The Oasis Sanctuary intends to create a park-like setting, open on a part-time basis, to
Lectures by Avicultural and conservationist dignitaries will be held. An educational
facility with planned library will be on site. Since the Santa Cruz River runs through the
property, The Oasis Sanctuary plans to set aside at least half of the land as a Riparian
Habitat. The Oasis Sanctuary also plans to use the facility for out of town speakers,
lecturers and guests. Any and all income generated will go to take in, house and care for
an ever greater number of birds.
The Oasis Sanctuary currently (1997) has a monthly overhead of between $2000 and $2500
(averaged over the year.) This includes food, housing, medical care, and shipping. There
is NO paid staff. Sybil is both the chief caregiver and director of the organization. The
Oasis is developing a small cadre of volunteers to aid in the daily care of these birds as
well as research, fundraising and long term planning for the organization. The balanced
diet provided for the birds includes pelleted bird food, as well as bulk seed obtained
from a local bulk vendor to the Oasis own specific formulations, fresh fruit and
vegetables in season, frozen mixed vegetables, beans, pastas, sprouts. Their own special
"Birdy Bread" is baked three times a week. As new birds arrive, after necessary
quarantine and/or medical care have been provided, they custom build an outdoor aviary to
meet the bird's needs. Or, if it is ascertained that the bird needs special care indoors,
The Oasis Sanctuary obtains a suitably large wrought iron cage from one of two
manufacturers who sell them at wholesale prices.
One of the Board members, Dr. Valerie Ferguson, is the Veterinary Consultant as well as
provider of on-site, as needed care at vastly reduced rates.
Within the past decade or two, Aviculture has gone from a small exotic hobby, to a vast
multi-million dollar industry. According to PIJAC (The Pet Industry Advisory Council) in
1990 there were 11 million pet birds living in 5.1 million households in the US. By 1996
the number of birds had grown to 40 million while the number of homes remained fairly
consistent at 5.9 million. At the current rate of growth, it is anticipated that by the
year 2000 there will be 60 million birds in 6.13 million homes. Breeders are creating
birds faster than the developing market can sustain them. The consumer is being
misinformed. He is told that birds are low maintenance (not true), that only young or baby
birds can "bond" with humans (definitely not true!) and, as a result, too many
ill-equipped people are acquiring bird with life expectancies from 15 years (Budgies) to
60-100 years (Amazons, Greys, Macaws and Cockatoos.)
Where are these excess, unwanted or special needs birds to go? Do we want to see
"humane societies" and "pounds" euthanizing these intelligent
creatures -- animals with the intelligence of two plus year old human children? There is a
need for and we hope that we will be seeing more establishments such as The Oasis
Sanctuary and The Tropics in North Carolina over the next decade.
The Oasis Sanctuary and the over 100 birds living there can use any and all the help
you can provide. They have memberships available for persons and institutions interested
in helping support the daily care, maintenance and housing of these wonderful creatures.
The Oasis is also actively seeking donations to go directly into a Land Acquisition Fund.
An account will be established to ensure money marked "Land Acquisition" will
only be used for this purpose. The goal is to raise $700,000 by the end of 1998. Sybil is
to be commended for all she does. She relies heavily on donations and volunteers. Sybil
has dedicated her life to these creatures. Any help you can offer would very much be
The Oasis Sanctuary has need for the following goods and/or services:
Most needed are toys for species from budgies to macaws, a Power Washer for speedier
cage cleaning, padlocks that either allow you to set your own codes or with matching key
locks, plays stands and large perches for both the inside and outdoor birds, office
supplies, a small copier, file cabinet, aviaries and cages - used and unwanted bird
housing and a "Tuff Shed" type building to act as a quarantine building. Used is
AOK! Also needed are Blankets and Plastic Tarps to cover the outdoor aviaries for next
Please save and send in Sept 1998! 4-6 new 33 gallon plastic garbage cans with lids to
serve as storage containers for the blankets and tarps during the seasons when not in use,
8 additional slightly smaller plastic garbage cans with lids capable of holding 50 lbs.
each of seed, nuts, pellets etc. Of course she always needs volunteers to help with
feeding (4-5 hours in the Morning), weekly cage cleaning and twice monthly yard work.
Sybil works under State and Federal license as a wildlife rehabilitator with For the
Birds Rehabilitation Foundation in Phoenix Arizona. She used to write a column called
"Life at the Oasis" for Caged Bird Hobbyist (until they ceased publication), and
is a contributor to Bird Talk and The Pet Bird Report magazines. Perhaps the next time you
are considering another pet bird you might consider a "previously owned" bird.
For more info please call or contact The Oasis Sanctuary's director
Check them out on the Web http://www.the-oasis.org.
Copyright: Birds of A Feather Avicultural Society May 1998