Afghan girl finds home for her bird with help from French ambassador after Taliban escape

‘Juji’ was rescued by the young refugee and left in the care of the French ambassador

In a touching tale on Twitter, the French Ambassador to the UAE has narrated how he helped to rescue the pet bird of an Afghan girl who fled Kabul during the Taliban takeover.

Perched in a cage that now sits in the garden of the French Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Juji – the name given to the black and white mynah – has been called the embassy’s mascot by those caring for him.

A member of the starling family, Juji arrived in the UAE in a box on an evacuation plane last month.

Ambassador Xavier Chatel said its owner, Alia, fought hard to keep her beloved bird with her when fleeing her home country.

“There is a story I have been meaning to tell for a while,” Mr Chatel wrote on Twitter.

“During the Afghan evacuation operation, a girl arrived at Al Dhafra airbase, exhausted, with an unusual possession: a bird.

“She had fought all the way at Kabul airport to bring the treasured little thing with her.”

Left behind

After travelling more than 1,800 kilometres on a packed plane with Juji, Alia was forced to leave the bird behind as she travelled onwards to France to start her new life.

Mr Chatel said she “cried silently” at the prospect of abandoning the injured bird she had rescued and had come to love.

“I was moved. I promised to take care of the bird at the residence and feed him,” he said.

He told her she could visit him at any time and take him back.

“I will not forget her look of desperate gratefulness.”

During his two weeks working on the evacuation at the airbase in Al Dhafra – sleeping only just two to three hours each night – the ambassador slipped away for a few hours to bring Juji to the French residence.

New home in Abu Dhabi

The drive from the airbase to the embassy didn’t quite go to plan, with the bird jumping from his box and hiding under the passenger seat.

“This energetic little myna escaped his box and made a big mess in the car,” he said.

“He hid beneath the seat and wouldn’t budge.

“When I tried to talk him into coming out, the fierce little fellow showed me that if he survived the Kabul airport, I was no match.”

After some tough negotiations, he eventually appeared from beneath the seat and made his way to his new temporary home in Abu Dhabi.

Now with his own cage, he spends the cool mornings in the garden and has even learnt to say bonjour.

“He has a girlfriend now; a dove that visits him every day.

“He has loosened up and started to say mysterious things in a language we can’t understand.

“I tried for a few minutes every day to teach him words, starting with bonjour, but the thing is, Juji doesn't like men. He frowned at me and looked angrily, while he giggled at females.

“I went on trying hopelessly with my daily bonjour, but sure enough he wouldn’t listen. Or so I thought.”

One day, the female manager of the French residence sent him a video of the bird saying “bonjour”, a moment Mr Chatel said touched his heart.

Alia recently found the ambassador on Twitter and was delighted to see her beloved Juji in a loving home.

And in a pact with the girl, Mr Chatel has promised to one day reunite the pair, even if it means him taking her pet to France himself.

Updated: October 6th 2021, 8:22 AM
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