There's no "there" there.

Saturday, April 24 2004 @ 08:06 AM UTC

Contributed by: visualizer

You often hear that "parrots were meant to be in the wild, where humans do not belong, where humans do not intervene," or similar ravings. It's bunk.

Humans need the wild places even more as everyone on the planet migrates to cities.

Without the natural world we'll go insane, as E.O. Wilson and others have demonstrated with the Biophilia Hypothesis. And cities need to incorporate more of the wild places, so that animals have more places to flourish as global warming wreaks havoc in the miniscule areas we've delineated as their reservations.


When I was in Sao Paulo there were parrotlets zooming like pocket rockets at treetop level, zipping down the streets and between apartment buildings. I could look out my apartment window throughout the day and watch their acrobatics. Like the parrots in southern California who eat ornamentals, they found plenty of good eating in the landscaping of Sao Paulo. These were native, wild flocks happy and thriving at home in a megalopolis of more than 15 million people.

This convergence of human habitation and parrot is old news to the parrots. In Africa and South America, many of today's most populous parrot habitats were created by humans, probably between 500 and 2500 years ago.

So far scientists have identified the basin of the Brazilian Amazon and other regions of South America such as Ecuador and Peru, plus Western Africa (Benin, Liberia) and the savannas of South Africa as sites where people lived and parrots (and nature) thrived. In fact, researchers now believe that the Amazon rainforest wasn't always there -- that the indigenous people created it.

The Spanish associated the Amazon basin with the fabled El Dorado. Until recently, no one understood why.

"Terra preta" or dark earths is what the Brazilians call a rich, black soil first noticed by scientists in the Amazon jungle. Based on current estimates from recent soil studies, ten percent of the Amazon basin consists of soils identified as terra preta -- ancient Amerindian compost.

Archaeologists have confirmed that the Amazon basin was once a vast collection of villages and cities connected by raised causeways (running straight for miles and aligned to certain astronomical markers), criss-crossed by miles of irrigation canals; the area teemed with hundreds of thousands of people.

Where people lived and farmed is where most parrots lived -- and stayed, long after the European diseases killed off most of the people and the pitiful remnants hid in their forest-creations to escape the slavers.

We can't very well put parrots into a wild that doesn't know the touch of humans, because they've not lived in that kind of environment for millennia. Their native lands were created by humans.