(This is a fable wherein some truths may be harbored. It is a scenario built on what-ifs. I would like to look at it as a thinking piece.)
The window on imported birds closed in 2011. An infected shipment of finches from Puerto Rico slipped through the Atlanta quarantine station and made its way to a large wholesale facility in California. Within weeks it was discovered that the shipment contained some finches with the H5N1 Bird Flu and it had spread to the African imports.
It was only a matter of time that importation would have been stopped, one way or another. Pet activists had decided to go directly to the source. They were becoming prominent thorns in the sides of government officials in various countries in Africa. Bird trappers were also having a spate of bad luck, with their nets cut to shreds, people sounding air horns around where they were trapping, and finding caught birds had been spray painted, just like activists had done with seals years ago. Inside the U.S., a House bill had resurfaced. Even though it had been watered down and people would be allowed to keep their pet birds, it would cut off importations.
The availability of cheap imported finches came to a quick halt. Brokers, wholesalers, and retailers were buying up birds at a panic level and constantly were looking for new sources when their current ones dried up.
Yet there were a few breeders who heeded the words of others and bred their imports and held them back, knowing someday it would be their lot in life to perpetuate the various species’ existence in the U.S.
By invitation only, or by a recommendation of a current customer would these breeders consider taking on new customers. Once in awhile, a person would bluster their way through, knowing so-and-so, and be granted a visit to a breeder. It was such an instance where a buyer was invited to tour a breeding facility. And one of those showed up one day to a breeder’s door to do business.
Breeder: Oh yes, come on in. You’re a friend of Fred’s, right?
Buyer: Yeah, he said you could help me.
Breeder: OK, then let’s take a quick tour. Over here, we have our African section.
Buyer: Well lookee here. All those Orange Cheeks. I haven’t seen any for months. I could take twenty of them. Let’s see, I’ve been paying $25 apiece, so that would be $500, right?
Breeder: No sir. That was a price when we had wild-caughts and they were plentiful. Twenty would cost you $2,000 today.
Buyer: Oh, come on. You can’t be serious!
Buyer: What about some cheap birds?
Breeder: Those are them.
Buyer: What about your Australian birds? They got to be cheaper.
Breeder: We have a few. Let’s walk over to that section. Here are some Societies I can let you have for $50 each.
Buyer: My God. Your prices are really out of line. You probably want $75 for Zebras.
Breeder: As a matter of fact, yes. That’s what they cost.
Buyer: But they breed like white mice. You shouldn’t be charging more than say, $10, max.
Breeder: These were bred to show quality.
Buyer: I don’t need show quality. I’m just going to sell them at a swap meet.
Breeder: Ah, a swap meet. You mean people still sell them that way?
Buyer: No, I haven’t seen any in a long time. That’s why I want to get back into it. Since the shortage, I had to go out and get a real job, hahaha. Seriously, don’t you have any seconds—you know, some with missing feet or plucked or something for about $10?
Breeder: You mean you’d sell a defective bird?
Buyer: A bird’s a bird.
Breeder: I see you never raised any yourself.
Buyer: Nope, buy ‘em and sell ‘em. Quick and clean.
Breeder: Just out of curiosity, what did you do when one of your birds became sick?
Buyer: Oh, that’s easy. Mark ‘em down and sell ‘em before they die on you. Oh, hey, is that Strawberries I see over there?
Breeder: Yes, they are.
Buyer: Bet you want an arm and a leg for them.
Breeder: Actually, I don’t sell them. I only lease them out.
Buyer: You what?
Breeder: We got real low on their numbers back in 2009 and everyone was warned. But not enough kept some back and increased stock. I lease out a few every year to reputable breeders for $300 each with a signed contract. They get a year to breed them and they get to keep what they were able to raise. Then my breeders are returned to me.
Buyer: I never heard of such a thing! And what happens if they sell off some of your birds and tell you they died on them?
Breeder: Each bird has a unique number on its closed band. Should a bird die on them, they have to return the dead bird, too. Otherwise, they get sued for breach of contract and go on my enema list.
Buyer: You mean enemies list, don’t you?
Breeder: No, you heard right. Enema list, as they have been anal about it and something has to be purged.
Breeder: Never mind. Now, really, sir. I don’t think we will be able to do business together. Let me show you to the door.
Buyer: Not at your prices, that’s for damn sure!
Breeder: Anyway, I don’t think you could come up with enough good references to qualify as a customer here. Good bye.
Buyer: You know what? You’re a crazy old man.
Breeder: That’s what I’ve been told.
Gulf Coast Finches