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Heidi Fleiss to open macaw sanctuary in Mansfield

Purchased around 30 acres near Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum; has plans to make it open to the public

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When hearing the name Heidi Fleiss, many remember her being described as “The Hollywood Madam” on the nightly news and in newspaper headlines across the country back in the 1990s. Her name once again made national headlines last week, but this time it was for announcing her plan to move a macaw parrot sanctuary from Pahrump, Nev. to Mansfield after she purchased nearly 30 acres for approximately $500,000. Her nonprofit, Macaw Rescue, Inc., is expected to be officially relocated by late February to property on Hicks Cave Road, which is close in proximity to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum.

Fleiss told the Wright County Journal she found the property for sale on Zillow after looking for land in the midwest to purchase and relocate her 30 macaw parrots.

“I’m excited to move to the Ozarks,” said Fleiss, who will be coming alone with her sanctuary. “I don’t know anyone there...”

She fell in love with the midwest climate and its potential for her macaws after visiting a friend in Tennessee last summer.

She visited after being told there was a home described as a “house of horrors” with macaws in it.

“There was a macaw chained to its perch,” she said. “I’m not leaving the bird chained to its perch. There were four macaws and I purchased all four for $20,000.”

To move all 30 of her macaws, Fleiss says she plans to either purchase or rent a Greyhound bus and have a driver take them, while not being in any cages, to the property during the next month. She said if she buys a vehicle, she will just sell it after the delivery is made.

As for her macaws, she’s looking forward to them having the freedom to enjoy a sanctuary that is a natural environment and does not include any cages.

Fleiss said macaws forage for every kind of nut with a shell as they also like Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and seeds.

As for the weather, Fleiss noted, that though they are considered by many as a tropical bird, they actually do love the cold. Fleiss said that a macaw, which can live between 80-100 years, flourish in an area with plenty of trees. She added that she has plans to pay people to help in the care of the macaws.

“They are free and may never come back if they don’t want to,” she noted. “I will do everything I can to provide a safe place for them. Food, shelter and everything they need, so when they die, it will be of natural causes and not someone shooting them or something that is my fault.”

The shooting of one of her macaws named Chuey on Christmas Eve in Nevada was the final incident in a string of incidents that pushed her into making the move. Chuey was allegedly shot with a pellet gun in one of the few trees in her area. Chuey’s  leg was fractured and crushed from the shot. Fleiss said she believes that there needs to be a national animal registry for those involved in animal abuse. She said being listed in the registry could affect abusers when being hired for a job and affect them in the college application process.

“It causes parents to be more involved,” she added. “Having an animal abuse registry will not stop (it), but would help curtail it.”

Also in the past month, a nearby resident’s pet bobcat got into an outdoor sanctuary on her property and caused what she has described as a “massacre.” After getting settled in the Ozarks, Fleiss said plans are to eventually open her sanctuary to the public. There is no official timetable in place for it being open to the public.

“I’m hoping when I’m out there, people will come see them,” she said. “I want them to learn and I want to educate them and for them to see the species.”

More on Fleiss and macaws

Fleiss was famous for her work in the sex industry and being in possession of an alleged black book filled with the names of famous clients before being found guilty on two counts of pandering in 1994. While her conviction was eventually thrown out, she did end up serving a 20-month prison sentence for tax evasion.

After serving her time, Fleiss moved to Nevada to get into the legal sex business of that state. In renting a house that not by design was next door to a retired madam who was bedridden, Fleiss was asked to take care of the madam’s birds.

Being moved with compassion to not see macaws sit alone in cages or have their wings clipped, it began for her a journey to pull away from the sex industry to solely focus on helping the macaw parrot species.

“When you walk through a sanctuary and see them in cage after cage, you feel creeped out,” Fleiss said. “They’re not suppose to sit in cages until they die. Probably my years in the penitentiary has something to do with how they have my heart. It’s wrong. It’s ignorant things handed down generation to generation. For me to be the face of this, there are so many better people than me. I’m not the most likable person, but I’m the only one that stepped up and said this is wrong...To see macaws flying overhead, eccentrically makes you feel good.”

Today, Fleiss describes herself as the urban version of Dian Fossey, who was the naturalist focused on in the movie “Gorillas in the Mist.”

“This is my family,” she said. “My observations are unique. You can read stuff in books, but macaw experts, they don’t have an understanding of them at all.”

Fleiss said she would have already moved, but is waiting for Chuey to recover from the bird’s injuries. The recovery should take three to six weeks.

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