Mexico City, Jul 2 (EFE).- For more than a decade, Catia Lattouf de Arida has devoted her life to rescuing and caring for injured and orphaned hummingbirds in her small Mexico City apartment, which she has set up as a “hospital,” later releasing them as a way of expressing her respect and love for the lives of these tiny birds.
“For me, since I was small I’ve had great respect for animal life, because I was a ‘girl scout’ (and) … I was seven years old, and they are taught that loving plants and animals means loving everything that’s alive. Not because plants are alive, animals are alive, but rather it’s something that was inculcated in me,” said Lattouf in an interview with EFE.
The 73-year-old said she has dedicated the past 11 years to saving the lives of these little creatures after surviving colon cancer, a situation that not only led her to be interested in hummingbirds but also to help people who are diagnosed with tumors or other neoplasms.
Her apartment in the Mexican capital’s luxurious Polanco neighborhood, has become a kind of hospital and sanctuary for these mystical birds, which have powerful spiritual significance in Mayan culture since they represent the resurrection of human souls.
The birds, many of whom are in very poor health, arrive at her apartment, where they are examined, cured and rehabilitated by Lattouf and her assistant Cecilia, who care for them until they can fly again on their own.
Her apartment, however, is also a refuge for those birds that fail to recover and can never fly again, and Lattouf has established a place in her home where they can receive the proper care until they die.
“No hummingbird passes away without saying ‘goodbye’ to me, so nothing may happen all night long (but then) in the morning, I look at it, I hold it in my hand, it looks at me, goes into its death throes and leaves (dies) in my hand,” she said.
With about 20 hummingbirds flitting here and there in the apartment, each of which has been given its own name, Lattouf says that she started rescuing hummingbirds during her battle with cancer with the arrival of Gucci, a baby hummingbird that another lady found injured on the street, and with whom, after she cared for him, Lattouf developed a special connection.
Although she didn’t know anything about hummingbirds, Lattouf contacted a veterinarian friend who told her about the type care the birds required, the medicines they needed, the food she had to give them and so on.
“I learned to care for hummingbirds, I did research, I talked to biologists around the world who didn’t know much about (them),” she told EFE.
Little by little, she said, she gathered extensive information and her renown as a hummingbird rescuer spread by word of mouth until one day a couple of young people brought an injured hummingbird to her and, noting all the care and experience she had acquired, they made a video that went viral on TikTok.
Today, she said happily, “I even coach (people in) Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, (the Mexican state of) Chiapas, (the city of) Monterrey. (They tell me) ‘I found a hummingbird, what do I do?’ So I take queries, videos, WhatsApp posts. (I ask for the details about the bird and I tell them) … how to (care for it) … I do the coaching and many of them survive.”
Last month, she said, she had 50 hummingbirds in rehab, something that – before the TikTok video was posted – she would never have imagined.
Lattouf also works with “Terraza Colibri,” a location in southern Mexico City where they accept the birds she has rehabilitated and release them.
Although Lattouf’s main goal is to rescue and rehabilitate as many hummingbirds as possible, she said that her most crucial message is to get people to understand the importance of these birds in the ecosystem.
“The most important message is to tell people (that they should) take care of pollinators, native plants. Not for them to tell me ‘I live in an apartment, I don’t have a garden,'” she stressed.
At present, she said, hummingbirds are threatened with extinction, given that they are deprived of their freedom (by people for the performance of) rituals or simply to keep them in captivity, which is part of the general ignorance about this species.
She emphasized that hummingbirds are some of the planet’s “great pollinators,” and if they were to die out more than two percent of the world human population would suffer the consequences, given that the species pollinates more than bees, bats and butterflies.
Finally, she recommended that if people want to put a hummingbird feeder outside their homes, they can make homemade nectar by mixing one part of white sugar to four parts of water, but they must always keep the container clean and in good condition.
“My message (to) all of humanity (is) for us to be pollinators (…) that I share my gifts with other people (…) I have to share (these things) and help others,” she concluded.