For the love of parrots

Priya Raju is a big animal lover. Dogs and cats and other animals literally take to her. She has the knack for petting them and befriending them. I am mostly in observation mode unless its a really friendly one. Check out her thoughts on parrots and please try to answer her questions, if you can.


I absolutely love Parrots. The Parrots (Parrots, Budgerigars, Macaws, Lorikeets etc) are amongst the most intelligent birds in the world. Most of them are as intelligent as a human child.

Of all the birds in the world, Keas fascinate me the most. They belong to the Parrot family & are endemic to New Zealand. Their curiosity is lamentable. Completely unafraid of humans, keas routinely break wind-shield wipers off cars to “investigate”. They drop stones on the roof tops of houses, just to see people running out in panic. Nothing is too strong for their powerful beaks. A handful of rogue keas may systematically dismantle your car: and a big bunch of “spectator” keas will sit around, gleefully watching the “fun”.

Keas are reportedly as intelligent as chimpanzees. No wonder there’s much monkey-business when they are around.

Recently, I visited a relative. She had a cage in her balcony, with a bunch of budgerigars (love-birds in India). They looked sad & forlorn. Budgies, as they are commonly called, roam around the length & breadth of Australia. It was terrible to see these parrots in a 4 X 10 wire-mesh cage. There were about 10 of them, huddling together for comfort, hardly uttering a squawk.

When a bird has been in captivity, you can’t just release it back to the wild. They won’t last for a day. Eagles or rooks might tear them to pieces in no time. Not to mention the neighborhood cats.

I’m always pleased to see an animal lover. If ever you get the urge to raise birds, please don’t raise exotic or intelligent birds. If you do, please don’t cage them. Better still: please think about contributing to a well-established Wildlife Society.

Here are my questions.

Question 1:Most religions (including Hinduism) attribute special qualities to human beings. Now that we know birds and animals possess a level of intelligence our ancients may not have contemplated: How special is a human being?

Question 2: What do you think about holding such intelligent animals in captivity – zoo, or otherwise?



1. I had written a while ago about bird intelligence.


  1. Quote
    Anonymous said April 24, 2007, 11:23 am:

    Very interesting Priya. When basic tenets of these religions are formed there may not be much scientific thought. I think humans are another surviving species.
    I feel that we should not keep anything in captivity even for educational purposes. But scientific research and modern medicine demands need for drug trails and hence this is a difficult situation.

  2. Quote
    Anonymous said April 24, 2007, 12:48 pm:

    Thanks Vamsi. Yes, I think that intelligence is a continuum. Most mammals have remarkable levels of brains.

    I agree – we still don’t have a viable alternative for many drug trials. Captivity should be avoided whenever possible.

    – Priya

  3. Quote
    Anonymous said April 24, 2007, 11:57 pm:

    For your second question, Priya, my response – no animal should be held in captivity. However the reality today is that some animals can only hope to survive in captivity.

    For the first question, Hinduism considers animals very special too. Many of them were made Vahanams and some of them were independently exalted to the status of god. This is prevented them from being killed. Not only animals even trees were given very special status and it was considered a sin to cut them down. If you study Hinduism you cannot but appreciate and love nature.

    How special are human beings – There is no doubt animals are intelligent but you cannot deny the fact that we our intelligence far exceeds theirs and that is why we are more accountable and have to behave more responsibly.

  4. Quote
    Anonymous said April 25, 2007, 11:58 am:

    Thanks Archana. Going by the poor animal rights records in India, I don’t think people are reading up on Hinduism.

    – Priya

  5. Quote
    Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 12:14 am:


    I think humans are superior in many ways. For example…animals / birds cannot plan…can they? I am not sure why you are talking about religion here. Arithu, arithu – maanitaraai pirathal arithu 🙂 🙂

    Captivity for what reason? under what condition? Do you think pet keeping under good condition is captivity? If so, I am fine with that..bascially you are caring for those animals.

    – Ramesh

  6. Quote
    Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 7:03 am:

    After posting this message, I ‘googled’ on ‘can animals plan’

    Interesting !!! recent study shows Birds, Like Humans, can Plan Ahead !!!

    – Ramesh

  7. Quote
    Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 10:32 am:

    Priya – It is a very interesting topic ! For years I have believed that only human beings have intelligence and ability to think, but that is proving to be wrong. To answer your questions:

    1) In Hinduism there has been references on animals having intelligence and human-like skills. Whether we believe those stories or not, if you look at the way human beings have evolved I believe that our ancestors who lived millions of years ago, might only be as intelligent as the chimpanzees and the birds of today, that we are referring here. It has taken millions of years for us to reach the level of intelligence that we have today and we attained this through communication and interaction with other species over these years. Several environmental factors have also influenced our growth and the time it has taken for us to reach this stage. If you take the birds of today that are intelligent and showing abilities to plan and think, who knows? – they might be as good as the human beings of today or even better after another thousands of years – provided they survive as the fittest (Thanks to Mr.Darwin :-)) The life expectancy of these species also plays a part. Not all animals and birds live for 70-80 years like a normal human being. So the long story said short – Human beings are superior today, but they may not be in future.

    2) On your second question – Captivity for protection and growth is good as long as there is no animal abuse. Also different animals might behave differently when under captivity. I feel that pet dogs are much smarter than the street dogs – but may be I am wrong. I have heard that the street dogs always demarcate an area for itself as its personal property, and will tear apart any other dog that enters its territory. So if this is true – street dogs are also intelligent.

  8. Quote
    Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 10:37 am:


    Interestingly i had posted about birds ability to plan a few months ago in my FTOTW Serie.

    If you check the link blog on the right hand column of the blog, i posted a link to an article that says primates exhibit morality. I am sure no one would have expected that.

  9. Quote
    Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 10:50 am:

    I don’t think we are special at all, even though we love to think so. Earlier, we were thinking we are on top of the evolution chain. It’s been proven that that genes that we carry are not special nor that significantly different from the animals and birds. We are just another track in the evolutionary system.
    One reason we may consider ourselves superior is because of the way we change our living environment to suit us rather than the other way around – but that’s neither here nor there. It will be interesting to see how as human race we pan out. We’ve been steadily beating the natural selection process of ‘survival of the fittest’. With advancement in science and medicine, even our weakest are able to survive for a long time. Does that weaken our gene pool eventually? – only time will tell
    The issue with religion is – It’s meant to provide a set of guiding principles and governance. However, there is no way to update what’s prescribed without a major uprising! In Hinduism, it was considered normal and human being’s birthright to kill animals and eat them. In India, until Buddhism and Jainism started spreading like wildfire, the Hindu powers that be didn’t take the time to update the principles to abstain from killing animals for consumption (purely for the survival of the religion).
    Will we ever come out of our ‘mightier than thou’ attitude? – It will probably take another uprising!
    Your 2nd question on holding intelligent animals in captivity – I’d only support holding any species in captivity only if there’s fear of extinction. But, then again, if that’s the natural selection process, not sure if we should be playing God with it.
    Both are really thought provoking questions and I am not sure if there’s going to be a single promising answer. It definitely will generate interest, though.

  10. Quote
    Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 11:20 am:

    Thanks NK. Agree with you fully.

    Perhaps we can hold animals in captivity to save them, if they are on the brink of extinction? Especially, if our activities have caused habitat destruction that led to their precarious position?

    – Priya

  11. Quote
    Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 11:26 am:

    Thanks Harish. I’m surprised. I thought you were a bit traditional & would uphold what the ancients said & did. Looks like I got you wrong.

    On (2) – the only problem is this. Who decides what abuse is? I once saw a rhino is a zoo. The enclosure wasn’t bad, it wasn’t ill-treated or anything. But, it was so bored & frustrated that it was banging its head against the shed. Sad to see.

    – Priya

  12. Quote
    Anonymous said April 26, 2007, 11:34 am:

    Ramesh – I think all religions assume that humans are the culmination of karma OR that humans are the masters of all animals. Hence my question.

    Yes, captivity needs a reason. Unless the reason is good, we shouldn’t hold the poor animals prisoners – regardless of the conditions in which they are kept. I’m ok if we have a wildlife reserve & have the animals there. But, that’s not really captivity – just habitat preservation.

    Pets – Dogs, cats & a few other animals live with us because it benefits them. Their genes have changed to adapt to this. I don’t think we should keep other animals as pets.

    – Priya

  13. Quote
    Anonymous said April 28, 2007, 12:31 pm:

    I think once adapted none of the animals held under captivity can survive in the wild. They would lose their instincts. Same would be the case of many domesticated species like dogs, cats etc.

    Check my blog surrealimage on Wild Hounds I have seen closely. They are wild as well as pet. They survive as if in wild if we let them do so.

  14. Quote
    Anonymous said April 28, 2007, 2:03 pm:

    Vamsi – This is amazing. They look a little bit like the Rajapalayam Kombai dogs of Tamil Nadu. I may be wrong. They have really short-hair – sort of feels like suede. I dont know if Kombai is nocturnal. Really amazing. Thanks for sharing this with me.

    I read that cats have the ability to turn wild, if they aren’t handled by humans in the 1st 3 weeks after their eyes open.

    – Priya

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