It’s no surprise that people like Joselito “Lito” Lacap, an engineer specializing in aquaculture, will develop a deep interest in animals. While his work is focused on tiger prawns, tilapia, and milkfish, he is also known as a champion breeder of birds.

by Carlo S. Suerte Felipe

Lito’s passion for birds started during his childhood, but the opportunity to make it a hobby presented itself to him during the late 90s. He started small; Lito recalls that he bought a few pairs of ringneckparkeets and conures along the highway while travelling to Tarlac for a business project sometime in 1998. “I noticed that they weren’t pairing,” he said, “so I did research on the Internet and found out that the birds I got were all males. It was also the time I discovered that there were many bird groups and associations in the country. That’s where I got help and learned the basics,” he said.

The hobby grew, and it all happened inside the garage of his house. Then Lito became part of the local avian community. He now focuses on breeding small and medium-sized birds. His frequent trips to Cartimar and consulting breeders developed his love for African Lovebirds. The time came when he tried importing these types of birds to come up with unique mutations; he also began joining local shows.

Lito’s enthusiasm led to his becoming a famous bird breeder. This also gave him the opportunity to display his menagerie at the Jungle Environment Survival Training (JEST) Camp inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. “I was encouraged by my friend, Atty. Chito Cruz (who was the senior deputy administrator of SBMA Chairman Felicito Payumo back then), to put up a bird park at the Camp,” Lito recalled. “So I was one of the four locators (investors) there. However, the camp had been neglected after the change in administration… When the current (Aquino) administration came in, the place was opened again to a single locator. I took the opportunity. That was also the time I started breeding large birds.”

Many of the birds on display at the Magaul Bird Park are locally-bred birds, particularly those used in the ‘Winged Wonders’ bird show.

Exotic bird breeder Lito Lacap and friend. Photo by by Carlo S. Suerte Felipe.

More Than Just Breeding

Back then, Lito included a few other land animals at the bird park at the suggestion of some zoo owners. But upon the suggestion of one of his daughters, they decided to concentrate purely on birds. With the inclusion of large birds in the park, Lito had no choice but to further improve what he already knew. He constantly keeps in touch with breeders and vets both locally and abroad even today. Social media has become Lito’s avenue to communicate with them. “Even if you have easy access to information about the birds, it’s also a hit-or-miss thing with what other breeders say and what you’ve read,” he explained. “In my experience, you create your own formula. You also become your own vet; (you’ll learn how) because avian vets in the country are very rare.”

What Lito meant by creating a formula is not just the diet or food but also taking care of the bird as a whole. In some cases, the formula Lito comes up with locally is what he shares to others. “Recently, people from the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore stayed at the camp for two weeks…they taught us how to handle chicks and how to hand-feed them. They also helped us create a database of our birds here. Way back, we had an exchange of ideas and expertise about how we treat certain diseases like the one-eye cold,” Lito said.

A Hobby That Gives Back

He added that keeping birds as a hobby is like a vice, as the money you spend on it “…goes back to you.” But many who focus solely on the business part always fail in the end. Many who develop the passion for taking care of birds, Lito said, are like painters. This pertains to the mutations or colors the birds produce as you breed it.

Those who fully understand how this works can come up with, for example, an African Lovebird that would fetch several thousand pesos from a pair that only cost a few hundred pesos. “You must love it first because if you do, you will understand it thoroughly. You must develop the passion for it then the business factor will follow,” Lito explained. The hobby also had a‘taming’ effect on Lito and his family, who all became focused on birds and wound up spending less time out of the house. “Sometimes, I get to greet the birds first before my wife and kids,” Lito said with a short laugh. “Although it didn’t became a problem since we all love birds.”

This appeared as “Loving Birds the Lacap Way” in Animal Scene’s May 2015 issue.