January, 2009, Parrot News (Keas, Cockatoos, Bird Sanctuary).
Here is a round-up of parrot-related news for January, 2009. The Kea picture is one I took at Milford Sound, and the Cockatoo pictures are ones I took at the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
1) First, a story concerning keas, one of my favourite parrots:
By HELEN MURDOCH – The Press | Thursday, 29 January 2009
Bird repellant may be included in 1080 pest bait this year to prevent more deaths of the endangered kea.
Seven monitored kea died after an aerial 1080 drop in the Franz Josef area on the West Coast last year during a preliminary Department of Conservation (DOC) study on the impact of 1080 on kea.
The deaths jolted DOC, the Animal Health Board and the Kea Conservation Trust into committing to the annual $250,000 study.
DOC Nelson science officer Josh Kemp said the study used radio-tagging and kea counts to monitor populations at various pest-control sites.
Bird numbers illustrated the impact of combinations of pest-control methods used at the sites, including aerial 1080 drops and trapping, he said.
Applications have been lodged with the Environmental Risk Management Authority to run the trials and have repellants included in the bait.
The two repellants registered in New Zealand would be trialled next spring.
“The hard part will be putting kea off taking the baits without putting off rats and possums,” Kemp said.
If the registered repellants were ineffective, research for alternatives could take five to 10 years, he said.
Kemp said he had been worried about the impact of aerial 1080 operations on kea since the 1990s.
The Franz Josef kea deaths had “shocked and stunned” DOC, he said. Kea were susceptible to trapping and poisoning because they were inquisitive, intelligent, not scared of new food and a similar size and weight to possums, he said.
One thousand to 5000 of the ground-nesting alpine parrots range across three million hectares of the South Island. One million hectares is rotationally treated with 1080.
“If kea populations are on the slippery downhill slope, we need to assess the role of 1080, the need for a bird repellant and if a repellant works,” Kemp said.
2) Destructive Cockatoos. I have a Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, and he loves to explore and chew. I have to keep him well-stocked with wood, leather, cardboard and paper for him to destroy. Wild cockatoos are like this as well, and sometimes will chew up things like houses.
They’re noisy too. I watched Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in Sydney for several hours and they were extremely screechy. It made them easy to find.
Illawarra residents concerned over cockatoo strikes
BY EMMA SHAW
17/01/2009 4:00:00 AM
Concerned residents fear the Illawarra may soon resemble a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as sulphur-crested cockatoos create havoc in the region.
The native birds have been causing damage to property by chewing through timber structures – and announcing their presence with that distinctive loud screech.
A Mt Kembla woman said the birds around her home were “horribly destructive. I feed them to stop them from wrecking things”.
She believed the birds could have been driven closer to the coast by the inland drought.
Berkeley handyman Hal Krahn is familiar with the problems caused by the creatures.
“Cockatoos do create damage,” Mr Krahn said.
“With some woods, like cedar, cockatoos particularly like the taste of it. I’m not sure what you can actually do (to deter them).”
National Parks Association of NSW Illawarra branch secretary Vaughan Williamson said the cockatoos had quite a reputation.
“The sulphur-crested cockatoo is renowned for getting stuck into timber
work. They tend to like to gnaw into the timber.”
Col Meharg, of Mt Kembla, said he had not noticed an increase in cockatoo activity.
“They seem to come and go on a rolling basis. They’re here for a few days and then they go again.
“I think some people encourage them with seeds they leave on their verandahs.”
Bob Kalnin, parrot co-ordinator for NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service, said the birds were known to occasionally cause damage.
“The cockies are a native species and there’s certainly plenty around,” Mr Kalnin said.
“Currently there are many young cockatoos locally at a stage where they are no longer reliant on their parents to feed them.
“Cockatoos roost overnight in flocks and move off to feed … not long after sunrise.
“They generally rest up during the day after stripping trees of leaves and bark, as well as man-made materials at times.”
3) Pets at University.
I’m going to admit that I found that the suggestion that cockatoos can make great pets for college students quite ridiculous. It might work for a few people, but most cockatoos are too loud to keep in apartments or dormitories. Additionally, a lot of undergraduates are away for hours at school and may be away evenings working or socializing. The poor cockatoo – an intelligent, social creature – would have to spend far too much time alone.
And, they’re not like snakes that need to eat once a week! Wild cockatoos eat every day and if one needs to leave their cockatoo for a couple days, someone will at least have to give it food and water.
Students and professors discuss the pros and cons of bringing pets to college
Irene Kan, Cavalier Daily Associate Editor
Published: Tuesday, January 20 2009
As if balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities and a social life is not enough, some University students have extra weight on their shoulders: pets. Taking walks on the Lawn with your best friend might seem like the perfect idea at first, but the responsibilities of caring for another living being quickly come into play.
Matt Kessler, an associate professor in the Office of the Vice President for Research who has a degree in veterinary medicine, decided to leave his dog at home when he went to Cornell University for his undergraduate education after considering his heavy course load and the fact that he was living off campus.
“I would [have been] potentially abandoning my dog [in] its room all day while I wasn’t paying attention, and I don’t think that’s any fair,” he said.
At the same time, however, the dog was much more Kessler’s than his parents. “I felt really kind of sad leaving my pet at home with my parents because I was really kind of the primary caretaker,” he said. “I think for the dog’s sake, it might have been better to leave him with me.”
Jeffrey Wimsatt, associate professor in the Center for Comparative Medicine and doctor of veterinary medicine, also emphasized the importance of the bond between humans and animals. “Roughly 38 percent of households [and] married couples don’t have kids,” he said. “And in many cases animals are becoming kids.”
Furthermore, pets have been used as intermediaries with people who are having trouble talking to others, he said, citing the example of the Oklahoma City bombing. The victims were surprisingly able to relate to a woman’s pet monkeys. “Animals pick up on people’s pain and approach them,” he said. On that note, he said it is possible that a student feeling estranged from the University community might feel better with a pet by his or her side.
Though students living in dormitories are not permitted to have pets other than small fish, some students living off Grounds have chosen to bring their pets to Charlottesville. Second-year Engineering student Devin Brown said his pet cockatoo, known as Coq or Coxanne – because it is impossible to know the sex of a cockatoo without a DNA test – is often a source of companionship. During the drive home for Winter Break, the cockatoo sat on Brown’s shoulder the entire trip. Bird, which is yet another name for the pet, is also extremely personable, Brown said, and squawks loudly if it is left alone. It was invited to the Browns’ Christmas dinner, during which it walked around the table and squawked at the guests.
In addition to the birds’ friendly nature, Brown recommends pet cockatoos to college students for other reasons, as well. For instance, in the rare occasion that a bird’s owner would be unable to care for it – such as an emergency stay at the hospital – the bird is conditioned to live for a long period of time without food or water, Brown said.
Chinchillas, however, are a completely different story. Second-year College student Jennifer Mak said she bought her chinchilla, Twishy, through Craigslist last year from a couple who did not have the time to care for her anymore. This high-maintenance pet must be given dust baths so its fur does not mat up, Mak said.
“Dust is basically volcanic ash – they sell [it] – and you dump it into a little bathhouse, and let them roll around in it,” she said. “It’s really cute, really messy.”
Adding to the mess, Twishy sometimes finds the walls extremely appetizing, Mak said. “My dad doesn’t like her because she chews up the siding on the walls,” she said. Luckily, Mak’s apartment in Charlottesville has remained unscathed.
Another potential problem that Mak could run into is if Twishy were to fall ill. “Not many vets know how to take care of exotic pets,” she said, adding that she would need to call a chinchilla breeder for help.
But even for all of the care and hard work, Mak said she does not regret getting Twishy. “You look up the perfect pet for you: how much care they need, how much you’re willing to commit,” she said.
Because a college student’s level of commitment to a pet may fluctuate, Kessler said he does not think it is the best idea to bring a pet to school. He added, however, that if the owner has bonded with the pet, he thinks it is best for them to stay together if possible. “I don’t think it’s as stressful as leaving them home alone, like abandoning them,” he said.
But if a University student brought his or her pet to school, and then needed to leave it at home all day, the pet would be subject to the same amount of neglect, both Kessler and Wimsatt said.
“Say you have it at home, but there’s no one there to look after it. You’re not really doing that for the good of the pet,” he said. “That’s, I think, a problem that a lot of students get into.”
While the University does not have a specific policy concerning bringing pets on Grounds – and people do so – Wimsatt said it might not be advisable. “Class changing, crowds of people around you, you don’t want a dog who’s territorial,” he said. “What you’re really getting is really how educated students are themselves.”
Even when he attended veterinary school, Wimsatt said he saw cases of animal neglect. Because all veterinary students needed to have pets, they were often forced to bring them to school, Wimsatt said. The pets, however, could not be taken inside the veterinary school – so as to avoid disease – and were usually stuck in a student’s car.
“It was fine perhaps for a while,” he said. “At lunch they’d run back and take them for a walk. Suppose they have an exam in the morning though, and the temperature rises up to even the 70s. If the sun’s on the car, all of a sudden you have a crisis because that animal’s going to get hyperthermic.”
When it comes down to it, there are many considerations regarding bringing a pet to Charlottesville, Kessler and Wimsatt both said.
“Responsible pet ownership is more than just feeding it – it’s a lot more,” Wimsatt stressed. “I think, more importantly for students, it’s understanding what responsibility is. It’s more than just giving them a pat at night and feeding them. Obviously that’s not ideal.”
4) And finally, a story about a bird rescue run by Buddhists in a suburb Washington. I was in Washington this summer and now I wish would have known about this place.
Compassion is for the birds, U.S. Buddhist group preaches
By Karin Zeitvogel
|As people around the world resolved to be more thoughtful and caring in the new year, a group of Buddhists in the United States is preaching that compassion is for the birds.
At a Tibetan Buddhist temple in this rural suburb of Washington, 35-year-old Christopher Zeoli has for 10 years been playing big brother – or alpha bird, as he puts it – to a steadily growing number of birds with behavioural problems ranging from aggressiveness to self-mutilation.
One of the birds, a huge red macaw, once carved a gash in a monk’s shaven head with its talons.
Another wears a protective plastic collar to keep it from pecking itself to death.
The birds, some of which were rescued from abusive owners such as an alcoholic who threw his cockatoo against the wall because it screeched too much, have found a degree of peace at the Garuda Aviary, founded by Zeoli’s mother Alyce, a native of Brooklyn who in 1988 became the first western woman to be recognized as a reincarnate lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Alyce, who now goes by the Buddhist name Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo, started the aviary inadvertently when she adopted a cockatoo in 1998.
“We first got a friend’s problematic bird. It screamed, it plucked its own feathers in such a way that it could have bled to death. These are some of the things that parrot owners have to deal with,” said Christopher Zeoli, whose life for the past 10 years has been entirely devoted to the birds.
According to Zeoli and others who work at the aviary, macaws and cockatoos have the intelligence of a five or six-year-old child.
“These birds are incredibly emotional and really intelligent, and they bond with their owners, but a lot of people shut the birds away – in a garage, a closet, a laundry room – or cover them up because that makes it dark, and when it’s dark, they’re quiet,” Claire Waggoner, director of the aviary, explained.
The birds feel separation and loss, and when they are constantly covered up, they develop neurotic behavior.
Behind double-glazed windows, around two dozen macaws and an equal number of white cockatoos with peach colored crowns screeched in a cacophony as their human alpha bird chatted.
“We would encourage, specifically when people consider buying a parrot, that they don’t. The vast majority suffer in captivity,” said Zeoli.
One of the basic truths of Buddhism is that suffering is part of life, but in western society with all its conveniences and easy remedies, suffering has become almost invisible, Ani Dawa, a Buddhist nun from Switzerland, told AFP.
“In our society, it’s difficult to understand what suffering is because we have fairly comfortable lives and we can alleviate suffering easily,” she said.
“But the suffering of the birds is so obvious, and just seeing it, you start to understand what suffering means.”
Another of the noble truths of Buddhism is that suffering can be alleviated by changing the way we think.
“You might start to look at other parts of the animal world and eventually you might understand that there are humans who are suffering,” Dawa said.
Running the aviary costs 45,000 dollars a year, or around 1,000 dollars per bird.
“We would like to raise awareness so that people stop buying parrots,” said Zeoli, who sees his job as chief keeper of the hyacinth and red macaws, the white cockatoos and African greys as a lifetime occupation.
Parrots have a life expectancy of around 85 years, and are likely to outlive their human caretakers if they are domesticated.
“Parrots just don’t make good pets. They live so long and require so much,” Waggoner said.
“We get emails and calls weekly from people who have parrots and can’t keep them any more,” she said, adding as a final argument to arouse compassion for the birds: “In the wild you don’t see feather plucking. In captivity, it happens a lot.”