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Parrot lovers look beyond the cage in letting their pets fly free

For them, the term 'feathered friends' takes on a whole new meaning.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
A bright red parrot spreads its wings as it alights on the hand of its owner at a free fly event in Bukit Antarabangsa, Ampang.
A bright red parrot spreads its wings as it alights on the hand of its owner at a free fly event in Bukit Antarabangsa, Ampang.

Jackie never thought himself one to care much about birds – but a visit to the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park last year changed everything. 

There, he saw birds of all shapes and sizes, some in cages and some flying freely throughout the compound. 

It was then that his interest in parrots began. 

Some time later, he came across a community called Free Fly, which brings together people of all ages and backgrounds, united by their love of their feathered friends. 

Now, he is one of dozens of members who devote their time and money to rearing birds. 

A member of the Free Fly community smiles with his three parrots at Bukit Antarabangsa in Ampang, Selangor.

But for them, rearing birds does not start or end with the animals being left in cages.  

On a regular basis, as indicated through their name, they allow their pets to fly free. 

The birds are trained to come back to their owners when they are called. 

The majority of the community members rear parrots as these are one of very few species that can be taught to obey orders in this way. 

Parrots are also known to be good pets, and can live happily alongside humans. 

While the community is based in Shah Alam, it has members throughout the country. 

A blue and yellow parrot takes off for a flight around Bukit Antarabangsa, Ampang.

Syimir Ahmad Safawi of training and consulting company Parrot Mall Malaysia said rearing birds was comparable to taking care of more common pets such as dogs and cats. 

For the most part, it is also an affordable hobby although there are some birds that can cost as much as RM100,000. 

"It's easy enough to take care of them as they eat the same things as humans do – fruits, nuts and things like that," Syimir said. 

"Dried food in the form of pellets costs about RM100 to RM150 a bag, and can last up to two months." 

According to Syimir, the majority of customers at Parrot Mall are owners who wish to learn how to train their birds and take care of problems related to their pets. 

This includes health issues such as lice infections and how to keep their birds' nails short and trimmed. 

"I have kept cats before, but parrots need more attention," he said. 

"Cats like to be on their own and just lie around, but parrots want to play all the time." 

Parrots soar through the sky at a free fly event in Bukit Antarabangsa, Ampang.

Depending on the size and species, licensed parrots can cost anywhere from RM150 to RM100,000.

Every week, the Free Fly community meets at Bukit Antarabangsa in Ampang, Selangor, to enjoy a day out and allow their pets to roam as they please. 

Some members come from as far off as Melaka and even Johor, just to join in the activities. 

Mohd Fauzi, from Melaka, said meeting with the other members allowed them to share their knowledge about the rearing of birds. 

And for Syimir, Free Fly is not just about releasing the birds into the air. 

"What we are doing is to try and go deeper into this hobby of rearing parrots, and letting others know about it," he said. 

"Before this, people only kept birds in cages. Now, we rear birds with the potential to fly freely and then return safely to their owners."

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