Gaga over pretty pollies

Daniel Lim

Household pets can come in all shapes and sizes, but regardless of the type or species, all have one common thread, which is the ever loving care that the pet owners shower on their animals.

This is especially true for Pengiran Zulaihi bin Pengiran Besar, the owner of Parrot Kingdom – a startup based in Kuala Belait that provides the platform for hosting parrot exhibitions and showcases.

With the support of his wife Aini binti Haji Abdul Rahman, Pengiran Zulaihi’s family has cared for parrots and other pets for over six years.

They have also showcased their love for animals through exhibitions and other events helping deliver awe-inspiring shows that highlight the colour and magnificence in the variety of parrots, so as to further spread appreciation for them across the country.

In addition to taking care of parrots, Pengiran Zulaihi began taking care of reptiles and cats since last year.

“I started in 2013 with a pair of small parrots bought by my wife. I immediately fell in love with them. I was surprised by the way they ate sunflower seeds by removing the shells using their beak. The parrots’ majestic beauty also impressed me,” he said.

From there he began expanding his collection of parrots, consisting of budgies which he bought from friends he made through social media.

Pengiran Zulaihi bin Pengiran Besar helping his parrots cool on a hot day. PHOTOS: DANIEL LIM
Some of the parrots belonging to Pengiran Zulaihi

He also started hunting for parrots across the country, and he recalled at the time, he had a collection of more than 60 budgies.

Around a year after he started, he began to consider going for medium and large sized parrots, which spurred him to start learning the different names and types of the species, such as Cockatoo, Lorikeet, Cockatiel, Conure, Macaw, Amazon and so on.

His research led him to begin a journey to import his first medium sized parrot, by seeking advice from officials who guided him on the correct guidelines and procedures on importing parrots.

Combining this with his research, he was able to bring in his first blue and gold macaw from Labuan.

During this time, he also made connections with other parrot collectors and enthusiasts in the country as well as overseas, sharing and exchanging information. To date, he has 50 parrots of various sizes in his collection, including 10 big parrots.

Asked on the hurdles he has had to overcome, he recalled that one of the challenges he faced was when one of his parrots was on the verge of death due to an unknown sickness.

He said even though he had taken the parrot to a vet in Brunei, many only specialised in cats and dogs. Determined to find a solution, he started contacting his friends in the parrot community from around the world to ask for their advice.

This included showing a stool sample to them, as it is a good indication of any health issues.

“It was a Canadian friend who explained that the parrot had a liver problem, and I had to import the medicine from America,” he explained.

On what made him go to such great lengths to take care of the animals, he said that there exists a bond between the owner and the pet, and this was no different for him.

He recalled back in his youth, he had a pigeon and a cat, both of which he was fond of and provided the basis for his love for animals. This sentiment has since been passed down to his family, to his wife and child, as they took look after the animals under their care.

Beginning in 2014, Pengiran Zulaihi noticed that there were a number of exhibitions for cats, fish, and rabbits, though he could not find one for parrots, which puzzled him. This inspired him to take the first step to create a parrot exhibition and start showcasing his collection of parrots.

“I remember I went to Jerudong Park with my wife to meet their manager and I shared my proposal and objective which was to organise a parrot exhibition free of charge to educate and to give awareness to the various majestic parrots found in the country,” he said.

The event was a success, as Pengiran Zulaihi with Parrot Kingdom and a group of his friends became pioneers who helped pave the way for parrot exhibitions in the country.

He has held exhibitions in different locations across the country, from shopping centres to schools. Though he has slowed down, he noted that the momentum that he helped create inspired the public who might not have seen birds such as these up close.