Above: This year, the Avicultural Society says it will be sending a young amateur to Jersey to receive the sort of training usually reserved for professionals. Pictured is the 2018 Raymond Sawyer Scholarship winner, Arno Lapiere


A PASSIONATE HOBBYIST from Belgium who specialises in parrot breeding has been chosen for this year’s Raymond Sawyer Scholarship.

Nineteen-year-old Arno Lapiere, a biology student at the University of Ghent, becomes only the fifth person to win an Avicultural Society (AS) funded scholarship on a specialist avian course held at the Durrell Conservation Academy (DCA) in Jersey.

Mr Lapiere will take his place on the “Avian Egg Incubation” workshop during November 5-9.

Parrots have always been Mr Lapiere’s main interest, after starting with budgerigars at the age of six.

He said: “After much research, I joined two parrot clubs in Belgium and soon added to my collection species such as plum-headed parakeet, rosy-faced lovebird and swift parrot, both wild type and mutation.”

After his studies, he plans a career in avian biology and aims to build a diverse collection of parrots which could help sustain important bloodlines in captivity.

He added: “I am honoured to win the scholarship. It is a huge opportunity to supplement my theoretical knowledge with hands-on knowledge. A proper understanding of embryo development and hatching of the eggs has shown to be very useful when working with vulnerable species.”

In previous years, young birdkeepers with a professional background in aviculture have won the scholarship. However, this year the judging panel wanted to see more amateur breeders come forward.

According to AS chairman, Nigel Hewston, the society itself attracts a broad cross-section of amateur and professional members, which is what the AS wishes to reflect in the scholarship. He said: “This year we will be sending a young amateur to receive the sort of training usually reserved for professionals.

“The AS hopes this will help Arno in his avicultural activities at home, and perhaps have a wider impact by giving him knowledge that he will be able to pass on in his own birdkeeping community.”

This year, outstanding applications came not only from the UK, but Australia, the United States and Belgium.

Panel judge Simon Bruslund, curator of Heidelberg Zoo, said: “Arno got a ‘beaks-length’ ahead because he demonstrated an apt level of self-reflection and self-criticism paired with the strong desire to improve and learn as much as possible.

“He believes aviculturists need to have a strong sense of ethics to justify their actions and we think this is a fine foundation to become a great advocate for aviculture.”

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