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Here, There, and Everywhere

Charlie Moores | Apr 14, 2009


In mid-January, as part of the ‘Parrot Month’ theme on 10,000 Birds, my colleague Corey reviewed ‘Of Parrots and People: The Sometimes Funny, Always Fascinating, and Often Catastrophic Collision of Two Intelligent Species’ by Mira Tweti, a book - and a name - that none of the three of us at 10,000 Birds had come across before.


here, there and everywhere by mira tweti

Corey emailed Mike and I several times to say how the book was affecting him before he wrote his review, which he ended with the paragraph, “I highly recommend this book to those who want to learn more about the horrible destruction humanity has wrought all in order to have pretty birds in cages. I imagine that this review might lead to a parront [parrot parent] or two commenting about how their birds are well-cared for, loved, and have plenty of enrichment but the fact is, unless their birds were rescued from neglectful or abusive situations, anyone who owns a parrot may well be complicit in a exploitative, harmful, and destructive industry that should be banned immediately, at least in this reviewer's opinion.”

Given the fact that Corey - just like Mike and I - had hardly given any thought to captive parrots and the parrot breeding industry in the past these were strong words and indicative of the impact of Of Parrots and People… (I’ve read it myself now and it’s had the same effect on me - horror, sadness, frustration, even shame that as a birder for forty years I just didn’t KNOW how intelligent parrots are, how we’ve mistreated so many of them, and how threatened many species have become…). I figured at the very least I should Google Mira and learn more about her.

I may not have heard of Mira before, but plenty of other people had. Aside from the personal details (she’s married and divorced, has taken Buddhist vows, is petite and effervescent) Mira seemed to be a highly divisive person. Some people loved her and lauded her work (Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, for example), others spoke of her as a devil living in California spreading lies and misinformation with every swish of her forked tongue. What on earth was going on? By the end of our ‘Parrot Month’ theme I had my answer: if you were opposed to keeping parrots in cages and were pro-conservation you loved her, if you were part of the American Federation of Aviculture (on whose “About” web page comes the revealing quotation, “AFA has a membership consisting of bird breeders, pet bird owners, avian veterinarians, pet/bird store owners, bird product manufacturers, and other people interested in the future of aviculture”) you most likely didn’t.

I had discovered the chasm that lies between two opposing sides. On one stood the Mira Twetis and Stewart Metzs of the world, on the other stood the breeders. I started out trying to balance myself between the two, but gave that up the more I read and learnt about a subject I had been ignoring for decades.

Looking back now (and this is only January this year I’m talking about) I’m actually astonished that I was ever equivocal about the subject of keeping birds. I went vegetarian because of a profound dislike for the meat industry, its environmental impact, and its cruelty (flame me all you like, folks, but that’s the truth of the matter), yet I was still somehow accepting that it was kind of okay to keep parrots in cages. Astonished, but at least I know the reason now: the pet bird industry has powerful and very vocal lobbyists and supporters who are as determined as the meat industry is to keep their point of view as ‘the norm’. They’ve very good reason to. Breeding and selling birds is an industry worth billions of dollars worldwide, and it’s worth money to keep the facts about trapping, smuggling, breeding conditions, and threats to wild bird populations very quiet indeed.

How did I not understand that parrots are as intelligent as our own young children? That they are emotional, and express joy, sadness, and loss? That breeders work with virtually no supervision or legislation (and cry about ‘loss of freedom’ whenever reasonable controls are suggested)? Because when I was growing up everyone kept a Budgie or wanted a Macaw, and there weren’t people like Mira Tweti and books like “Here, There and Everywhere” to tell the other side of the story…

rainbow lorikeet sydney

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus), Sydney, Copyright Charlie Moores

I wish there had been, because she is a dedicated, committed, and inspirational person and this is an extraordinarily beautiful book which superbly captures the essence of what it’s like to be a wild parrot (in this case a Rainbow Lory/Lorikeet with the name of Sreeeeeeeet) who plays, learns, and experiences everything we might want for own offspring if only we didn’t live in cities and in such fear of our own neighbours, and who is then stolen from the Papuan forest and exported to the US. The story that unfolds is in itself quite simple: the desperately sad Sreeeeeeeet is bought by a young boy, Peter, who sees him in a store and feels “like he is looking at the most beautiful creature in the world”, takes him home to a New York apartment, and along with his parents gradually gets sick and tired of the squawking and the “pooping” (there’s a lot of pooping in ‘Here, There and Everywhere’) and loses interest in him. Eventually, though, Peter finally sees “Sreeeeeeeet as an individual just like him and not as a pet with pretty feathers and a beak” and persuades his parents to release Sreeeeeeeet back in the Papuan forests he came from.

It’s simple and, yes, it’s unlikely that a wild Rainbow Lorikeet would be imported into the US now (though they’re still widely trapped), and, yes, it’s hard to imagine that permission would be given to return a captive Lorikeet to Papua from New York quite as easily as it is here - but that’s hardly the point. This is allegory. It’s a wonderfully-told story, a mix of fact (there are sections at the back of the book looking at Lorikeets, rescued parrots, and eg the Indonesian Parrot Project) and fiction, it’s based on true events but doesn’t claim to follow one bird’s life, and that’s how it should be read. Don’t read ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ as a manual, read it for what it is: a heartfelt, loving story that aims to and succeeds in making the reader think about where ‘pet birds’ come from, how they’re still ‘wild’ even after years of confinement, how terribly uninformed so many of us are when we cross the threshold of a pet-store (as I did many years ago) and take home a bird we know virtually nothing about.

Seriously we should all read this book. And if we can’t borrow it from a friend (or have it sent to us to review) then we should buy it. Why? Buy it because we all need the education; buy it because it’s gorgeously designed and because the illustrations (by Lisa Brady) are stunningly beautiful, quirky, original, and so suit the text that it’s hard to imagine one without the other; buy it because Dr Jane Goodall calls it “a masterpiece for children”; buy it because a percentage of the sales goes to parrot welfare and conservation organisations… Buy it for whatever reason you want, but do buy it, especially if you have children because they will love it…and if by reading it they grow up questioning whether we ought to be keeping intelligent birds like these in cages as ‘pets’ or status symbols or just as something to brighten up a dull room then you’ll have done a wonderful thing for them and for these beautiful, complex and wonderful birds.

‘Here, There and Everywhere’, written by Mira Tweti and illustrated by Lisa Brady, is published by Parrot Press (January 2008) on paper made from 10% flax, 40% recycled post consumer waste, and 50% sustainably harvested trees.
ISBN 13:978-0-615-17122-7

In addition to the book there is an exceptionally interesting website with much more information on parrots and parrot welfare at, where you can of course also place an order for ‘Here, There and Everywhere’

- Views and opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own and are not necessarily endorsed, supported or held by the World Parrot Trust -