Tracie Willis has lived in Sayulita for 30 years. Born in Canada and raised in England, she first became involved with animal rescue shortly after arriving in Sayulita in 1990. An associate of Tracie’s–an American woman from California–was running and financing an animal shelter and rehabilitation center in Sayulita when Tracie arrived.
“I met her and I got involved, and it changed my life,” she told us. The sanctuary was recently officially certified by SEMARNAT, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources or Mexico’s ministry of the environment.
One of Tracie’s new passion-projects is bird rescue and rehabilitation, which she has been doing for the past two years. There are many beautiful species of birds in the tropical jungles around Sayulita. Tracie explained to us the vital role that birds play in the health of the forest: When birds eat the fruits of trees and bushes, they transport the seeds miles away through the jungle and help ensure the continued biodiversity of the flora.
Parrots, parokeets, lorikeets, and other tropical birds with brilliant plumage abound, and some people, less ecologically conscious than Tracie and her associates will capture these birds, often clipping their wings and putting them in cages. They then sell the birds in cages to anyone who is willing to pay.
As you can imagine, all of this is terribly and deeply traumatic for the birds. When Tracie rescues them and releases them from their cages, the birds’ lives are transformed. The difference in the birds’ behavior in only 24 hours “is incredible,” she said.
Tracie and her associate Cristian have been going door-to-door looking for birds to rescue. It’s tough work, and it’s hard to tell someone that their pet is essentially being abused. “We hear the pericos calling,” Tracie said, using the Spanish word for parakeet, “we approach the owners, who do love their little birds–they do love them, and I have to convince them that their bird is suffering and would be better off with its own species.”
Cristian, speaking with passion and conviction told us “birds should not be pets. They are not ours to own… They have wings to fly. They were not meant for cages; they are meant to be free.”
According to a Mexican law passed in 2014, no animals are allowed to be caged. The law is little known, and almost never enforced. When Tracie and Cristian approach the owners of caged birds, their first objective is to educate them. Most owners of do not know or understand that their birds are suffering. They also are seldom aware of the 2014 law, and do not know that they are committing a crime. Some owners, informed of their birds’ plight, will surrender their pets to Tracie (with an open invitation to visit them in their new habitat).
So far Tracie and her crew have released over 25 formerly domesticated birds back into the wild and created an aviary where birds can come and go and find plenty of naturally occurring fruits and seeds to eat. Three birds that were rescued come to the aviary every day for a morning snack and then fly away again. “We will take any bird you’ve got,” said Tracie. “And I promise you we will give it the best care and put it on its path to being free again.”