Parotte Ville Bird Park
For centuries it has been believed that the name given to a child or a family’s surname, could determine its likelihood of success, personality traits or reveal the family’s occupation. When I visited Parrot Ville, how amusing was it to discover that the name of its mayor and founder was George Parotte.
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Mr. Parotte has been an animal lover all his life, but his true passion was always in the one creature that comes in a variety of sizes, colors, species, and abilities. That one creature that made his job as a taxi driver fly away and a new business venture take off.
We came to discover that beyond the mayor’s acute knowledge of birds, he is also well rounded in other subjects such as the medicinal attributes of many locally found plants, the history of our island and his ancestors but also business management.
Parotte Ville is as cosmopolitan as St. Maarten/St-Martin, gathering about 25 species and 170 birds.
Initially, George – as you will kindly be invited to call him – wanted to base the bird aviary on the northern side of the island but encountered a few “red tapes from the government and a lack of social support” due to their inability to grasp his vision and foresee the international scale of recognition that Parrot Ville would acquire. Indeed, the modest bird agglomeration has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, USA Today, Travel Talk, Bird Talk; received a certificate of excellence on Trip Advisor and is rated #2 out of 34 things to do in St. Maarten.
Having studied birds for the past ten years in regards to their history, diet, medical needs and having raised them since he was 17, George has created a space that enables birders and curious visitors to enjoy more than a simple bird watching habitat but to experience a close and voluntary interaction with them. They playfully fly on your hand to eat from the cup of seeds you’re holding, land on your shoulder or head and if your offer your finger as a toy, you might just regret that stinging decision. I heard “aouch! that hurts!” quite enough times to assume that putting my finger in a birds beak isn’t something I want to try…
When looking at businesses and opportunities in St. Maarten/St-Martin as opposed to abroad, I can’t help but wonder what the missing key elements are for the ventures here to expand as much as they do elsewhere.
In the US, the 2011 National Survey reported that “bird watchers spend nearly $41 billion annually on trips and equipment”. The economy of the local communities in which bird watching occurs benefit up to $14.9 billion from avitourism, also called bird tourism.
Also, during the American Birding Expo in September 2017, it was found that “among other events, the Space Coast Birding Festival generated nearly $1.3 million over 5 days.”
We can probably expect growth in bird lovers in St. Maarten/St-Martin thanks to the initiative of many schools on both perimeters of the island, that take the children on school trips to Parrot Ville where Mr. Parotte enthusiastically shares the beauty of his passion.
The bird town, gradually expanding and naturally growing in the direction of innovation, is both entertaining and educational. But the sanctuary, as Parrot Ville has also been baptized as, is also the place where many come to get peace of mind and increase their health. A recent article in CNN Health, among many other websites, highlight the benefits of bird watching for well-being.
If you’re on vacation or a resident, I highly encourage you to swing over on Bishop Hill Road in Belvedere and discover this spot for yourself. You won’t regret it, because I sure don’t! And if you too, are a bird lover or would simply like to see this newly founded, local heritage, endure over time, feel free to donate or invest in what is already, one of St. Maarten’s top attractions.