Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Leave a Legacy

My butt started buzzing out of control. Zzzt. Zzzt. Zzzt. Hard to ignore. However, on that Sunday I was lecturing to a very attentive group of veterinary professionals devoted to making the lives of parrots better. At the break, I checked my phone to see what all the incessant messaging was about. It was the weekend of hurricane Harvey pummeling Texas, but the worst had passed already on this trip away from home and my town was spared. Turns out Harvey did have a sucker punch in store for me and the bird world after all.

Many people are familiar with the Blue-Throated Macaw, Blu Lu that resides with me. She came to live with me at the request of Laney Rickman. Laney was the founder of a parrot conservation organization called the Bird Endowment. This organization focuses on saving Blue-Throated Macaws by keeping a genetically diverse flock in Texas in the event the wild population were to go extinct. (There are only about 300 birds left in the wild.) The captive population is managed so that they are behaviorally as wild as possible in a captive setting. Blu Lu had been rejected by her parents and had to be hand raised. Behaviorally she was inappropriate for the group. I agreed to take her if we (Blu Lu and I) continued to raise awareness and funding for the conservation efforts of the organization in the wild.  The Bird Endowment also heavily focuses on supporting Blue-Throated Macaw conservation in the wild by partnering with Armonia to put up nest boxes to increase the population. This is the one thing that has proven to be successful in making a difference in helping these birds in the wild.

Some may think…”whateves, yet another conservation group.” Let me say up front. Conservation is political and controversial. Bottom line is, I am picky about where I place my support. I did not support the Bird Endowment because Blu Lu came into my life. Blu Lu came after I had already been a supporter of the Bird Endowment. I chose the Bird Endowment because of Laney.

I was at a companion parrot event and Laney was a guest speaker. Laney shared her story of being an ad executive making a hefty paycheck in Houston. She had a small companion parrot she enjoyed who inspired her to volunteer at the Houston Zoo. At that zoo, she had the pleasure of working with some Blue-Throated Macaws. It was at that zoo she learned of how unlikely it was this species would be around much longer in the wild. She also learned there really was no champion for their conservation efforts.  

Laney was also a huge fan of blues music, another interest we shared. She told the story of how she had seen an interview with Eric Clapton in which someone asked him why he was so interested in preserving the history of blues music and he said, “Well if I don’t do it, who will?” That one sentence was a game changer.

Laney pooled her savings from her ad exec career, her passion for parrots and the “if I don’t do it, who will?” attitude and instituted a full-fledged conservation program that actually made a difference.  Overhead was kept to a minimum and funds really went to helping birds.

What I loved most is that all this came from one woman’s passion to make a difference. And she did make a difference. Really made a difference.

Did I love that she named all the birds she cared for after blues artists…hell yeah! And I named Blu Lu after Blu Lu Barker an old obscure singer from the 1940’s.  I also loved that when I challenged people to put a little blue in their hair to raise awareness for Blue-Throated Macaws, Laney dyed her entire head of hair blue! And it looked great on her. She lived in a small conservative Texas town, the blue hair was a brave move she once told me.

That small town was hit by hurricane Harvey too leaving people scrambling and shorthanded. Laney wasn't getting the diagnosis, treatment, care and attention she needed for an obvious serious medical problem. She was sent home. And when the worst of hit, it was too late. 

Laney always talked about coming into Austin to see some music. She was one of the few who always liked my music posts on social media. I like to think she is attending the best blues concert ever right now with all her favorite artists.  She certainly deserves it.  There are lots of clichés that come to mind when we lose someone. Life is too short. Live the life you love, love the life you live. Make each moment count, etc., etc., etc. The lesson that comes to mind for me when I think of Laney is “Leave a legacy.” She most certainly did. The sky really is crying Laney. We do miss you. But you did what you set out to do. Thank you for showing us the impact ONE person can have on saving wildlife.

PS Many want to know what happens to the Bird Endowment without Laney. Nido Adoptivo will continue on for this next season as Laney would have wanted.

Barbara Heidenreich 

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training (www.BarbarasFFAT.com) provides animal training DVDs, books, webinars and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in over twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara works with the companion animal community and also consults on animal training in zoos.


heidi said...

Barbara, please let us know how to help the captive flock as well as contribute to more nest boxes. <3

Barbara Heidenreich said...

On the flock, probably best to contact Jack directly via the Bird Endowment page http://www.birdendowment.org/birdEndowment/contact.shtml or their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/The-Bird-Endowment-38857186481/ and they are still accepting donations for nest boxes here http://www.birdendowment.org/inBolivia/nidoAdoptivo.shtml

heidi said...

Thanks so much - and thank you for this post, she was a remarkable influence in my life, I cannot fathom a PF without her =(

Unknown said...

Hi, Barbara – this is Laney Rickman's sister, Dorothy Paterson reaching out to you. Your beautiful blog post about her has me in a puddle of tears in my kitchen – what a beautiful tribute to my beloved sister! I would like to speak with you when convenient -
I am helping Jack set up the Laney S Rickman Blue Throated Macaw Memorial Fund to continue her legacy of saving the BTMS in the wild in Bolivia. By the end of the week, we should have a webpage and donation link ready on the American Bird Conservancy website which you probably know partners with Armonia in Bolivia, the group for whom Laney set up the nest box program

PS Jack is understandably overwhelmed right now. The last six birds on the farm are now gone as of Sunday.

heidi said...

Dorothy, thank you so much for keeping us in the loop - ABC is an excellent organization and I'm glad to hear of the fund being established. I'm so sorry for your loss.