HOPE VALLEY - It all started with one bird.
When Marc Johnson needed a companion to keep him company in his lonely pottery studio in Cambridge, Mass., in the late ‘80s, he sought a friend.
“I figured I’d get a parrot,” he said.
Little did he know what the road ahead held in store.
Within a year, Johnson had 30 birds living with him in a three-room apartment. He was hooked. He began taking parrots in because he wanted to provide care for those who were discarded by their owners. His new interest in exotic birds was amplified by conversations he had with someone close.
“My cousin Dave, he’s an outdoors type, he told me to never keep a bird in the house and to appreciate the value of wings. He was one of the first people who really lit a spark in my head,” Johnson said.
“I couldn’t do enough,” he continued. “Nobody else was doing anything so I had to do something.”
According to Johnson, when he got his first parrot he was “bitten by the pet trade propaganda.”
“They will teach you how to take care of a parrot so that it’s easy for you, but not how to keep a parrot happy and healthy,” he said of the commercial pet trade market. “If you have a bird, and any sensitivity at all, you will realize you have a really intelligent and deeply unhappy animal.”
Nowadays, Marc Johnson is the founder and CEO of Foster Parrots, LTD, a non-profit organization that provides a sanctuary for unwanted, castaway birds. The property on which Foster Parrots is located sits at the end of a dirt road off of Woodville Alton Road in Hope Valley, and has to be one of the most unique treasures hidden in the woods of rural Rhode Island. Johnson has named this property the New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary (NEEWS).
The NEEWS is home to more than just parrots. On the property there are over 650 birds, other exotic wildlife including porcupines that exceed 30 pounds, tortoises that exceed 100 years old, and one dog, who is also a rescue, that follows Johnson around wherever he goes.
For more information, pick up a copy of the Chariho Times