Staff and volunteers at Brainy Birds, which is home to about 120 birds from the parrot species, now spend most of their days disinfecting equipment and cages, and trying to chase away the pigeons which come to feed at the shelter.
The shelter has now been forced to keep its birds in cages on a 24-hour basis in case they get contaminated.
The virus is spread through bird droppings and saliva.
Owner and founder of the sanctuary, Dee Hendrickx, who has been rescuing birds for the past 14 years, said she has sleepless nights and keeping the birds caged was breaking her heart.
“I try to release them for a few hours every day into areas which we have disinfected, but it is still dangerous because we have wild pigeons here all the time looking for food.
“Some of our birds are stressing badly and they squeal all day, with some plucking out their feathers in despair.
“Should only one bird get infected, we will have to put all of them down.
“We are disinfecting everything and no member of the public is allowed in, except by appointment.
“Staff and volunteers have to disinfect their feet before entering any of the enclosures,” she said.
Hendrickx offers the only registered parrot sanctuary in the country.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) vets and members of the public refer cases to her.
“I rescue mainly abandoned and abused parrot species.
“I try to educate the public as widely as possible. Birds should not be kept as pets. They should be left to roam free. They are very sensitive and can be dangerous if they don’t like people,” she said.
Hendrickx said she mainly rescues birds that have been abandoned by owners who cannot handle them when they turn out to be problematic by screeching all day or attacking the owners.
“People see them as cute pets, but they are not. They can become very difficult, especially if they don’t like their surroundings. We rescued many birds which belonged to old people who became pensioners and were unable to take care of them. Relatives simply cannot handle them and hand them over to us,” she said, adding she faced many difficult situations in rescuing birds.
“I have been arrested for trespassing when rescuing birds in distress or which are being abused. I have climbed over fences and have been thrown into a police van. I even had altercations with attorneys,” she said.
She used to keep about 40 birds in a house in Edenvale, but a neighbour drew up a petition and the City of Ekurhuleni forced her to move because of the noise.
“I was lucky to have found a house which had been standing empty for about 20 years and the owner loves birds, so he agreed to rent me the house,” she said.
It is costing Hendrickx about R40000 a month to house and feed the birds.
“We have fundraising events and we have volunteers who help us to raise funds,” she said.
The sanctuary is now planning to build a “free-flying”, covered aviary on the premises where the birds will be freer to roam. It is also starting a fruit and vegetable garden.
“It is a misconception that birds only eat seeds. We only give them seeds once every few weeks.
“They eat seasonal fruit and vegetables the rest of the time, so we are hoping that, by growing these ourselves, we can cut costs,” she said.
She also re-homes some of the birds, but under very strict conditions.
“Anyone wanting to adopt, has to come for at least two months to work at the sanctuary to learn how to handle them and also so that we can screen them.
“There are also costs involved, similar to the SPCA charges,” she said.
Anyone who can assist can contact Hendrickx on 0794265572.