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Hercules the Senegal

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  1. Indeed, a valid point. But, given that human-imprinted birds get abandoned by their owners, where would you have them go? They often refuse to accept anyone else (I've been lucky in that all 5 of mine have switched their bonding to me after 5 years of hard work). Many can be at least partially unimprinted so that they will accept other parrots but it takes a lot of time and work. Some of the Spix's macaws which were donated to the Al Wabra breeding facility were human imprinted; I believe (but don't quote me on it) that some have bred successfully, though whether that was by natural conception or using artificial techniques I don't know. The fact is this: if a human imprinted, bonded bird loses its human partner for any reason, it's a big problem. Keeping them in a flock at the NPS may well be the least worst option and certainly, most of the birds there seemed to be socialising in a relatively normal way. Some came to the bars, but most were simply trying to solicit treats. One or two did solicit allopreening by lowering their heads for a scratch but I think that this was residual behaviour rather than any indication of unhappiness. I repeat, rather than having a go at a facility (the NPS) which is really just doing its best to sweep up other peoples' mess, let's ALL get together and turn our collective attention on unscrupulous breeders and retailers who encourage people to buy pet parrots for which they are totally unsuited. I would bet that everyone on here, pro or anti NPS, is a parrot lover. Let's stop the silly bickering and insults and focus our time on preventing the NPS from having to take in so many birds by educating current and prospective owners, exposing irresponsible suppliers and also by CONSTRUCTIVE advice to help the NPS look after the birds it has successfully. Right, I said I was going; now I am. Goodbye to you all. Hercules
  2. That'll be Sue Thornton, in all probability. Never had any personal dealings with her, but by reputation, she's top class. If she didn't find anything seriously wrong, there ain't nothing seriously wrong. And 20 things to address is not unusual. Hercules
  3. As a matter of interest, do you know which panel vet?? I may know him/her.
  4. Early November. for the first time, out of curiosity provoked by comments in letters in Parrots mag. It's a 500 mile round drive for me, so I won't be going again in the near future. I spent 4 hours there, looked carefully at the food and water provision, hygiene standards and safety. I couldn't talk to the staff much as they were busy fixing new perches in the macaw aviary, but would like to speak to them to ascertain their level of expertise. I expected far, far worse than I observed. I could not believe that such a poor standard as that portrayed was consistent with a zoo licence, and that would mean that a DEFRA panel vet has had to have inspected the Zoo along with EHOs from the local council. Now, contrary to the view of many animal rights activists, DEFRA panel vets are not idiots (though I was one, so some might disagree); I don't know who did the inspection for the NPS, but I'd wager that if the Zoo was truly that bad, it would have been closed or be operating under a strict regime of inspections to ensure improvements occur. I would also add that, as part of any zoo inspection, we find out if the operator and staff have the requisite level of knowledge to run the establishment properly. I also know that a vet visits the NPS regularly and would pick up on any deficiencies. I am not saying the NPS is perfect, but nor is the excellent Paradise Park (which I visit regularly and donate to). Both have areas where they can improve, but both appear to have that intent. But the emotive vitriol directed at the NPS by a few posters on here displays nothing but their own prejudice and ignorance of the principles of avian welfare.
  5. ................... Peter55: ONLY human-grade peanuts ARE used at the NPS so why do you keep banging upon the irresponsibility of the NPS using peanuts in the shell? Non-human grade are NOT used. Do not imply that they do. Human grade or non human grade... Why give them at all if there is ANY risk involved? As I've stated previously, I personally, think that the public feeding of the birds is ill-advised for many reasons including those that Hercules outlines. However, it is obviously an additional source of revenue for the NPS&Z which is presumably, why the practice has not been stopped to date. :? Why go for a walk in case a car mounts the pavement and kills you? Why eat in case you choke? Why give parrots small amounts of human grade peanuts? Because they enjoy them and, with care, the danger is as minimal as long as simple precautions are observed. Why do the NPS do it? Because it encouages interaction between visitors and birds to the psychological benefit of both. But I would be happier if they gave visitors more guidance. I believe since I retired from the vet panel, DEFRA have modified their policy on public feeding by visitors to zoos, but I don't think they actually prohibit it. I may be wrong, but I think they only discourage it.
  6. Oh dear, more myths. Aspergillosis is fungal infection which is common and dangerous is many species of birds, but frequently waterfowl in my experience. Given that ducks don't usually eat peanuts, peanuts are not the sole cause. The spores are spread from decaying food - almost anything can act as a source if it goes mouldy. Peanuts usually become a problem as the mould can multiply on the outside of the pods if they are incorrectly stored. Clearly, the likelihood of this increases if the peanuts are stored for a long time or in damp conditions. It should not happen if the peanuts are freshly delivered and stored in dry conditions. I examined some peanuts I bought in the shop and there was no sign whatsoever that they were likely to cause problems. However, that brings me on to the problems peanuts can cause in terms of their dietary effects. Peanuts have many trace elements and some vitamins which can be beneficial. They also contain large quantities of oil which can, in excess, lead to obesity. So they are far from an ideal food, but nothing is. Do you eat chocolate?? Parrots eat peanuts like we eat chocolate - they like them as a treat. So peanuts are OK to give if they are bought from a reptable distributor, stored in dry, airtight conditions, and used promptly. Shell on nuts give the birds the enjoyment of opening them but has a slightly greater risk of aspergillosis than shell off ones. It is important to clear away the discarded husks regularly as they may become damp and encourage the growth of the aspergillus fungus - the same as any other food. You should also closely examine the nuts and shells for any sign of mould and reject the whole batch if any is found, as well as reviewing the storage system. But finally, peanuts should ONLY be included with a wide spectrum of other foods including seeds (even sunflower seeds in very small quantities are OK, though I expect some will disagree with THAT assertion pretty vehemently as there is a myth amongst some aviculturalists that your birds will drop dead if they even see a sunflower seed), both fresh and dried fruit and vegetables and soaked pulses. The secret of parrot nutrition is variety; a bird fed solely on sunflower seeds or peanuts will be extremely unhealthy - I know, I've seen some in practice. But it's OK to give small quantities of "unhealthy" foods as a treat. I've kept parrots myself for almost 40 years, have fed them peanuts in small quantities and have never had a case of aspergillosis. So perhaps the food is not the problem. As usual, the problem is the owner.
  7. I didn't know they were going to, but one of the things that struck me was the potential amongst their stock for this. Many birds seemed to be paired and I suspect that some of the plucking could be due to reproductive frustration since I saw little evidence of any nest boxes except in the walk through. Clearly, this is understandable as more young would only put more pressure on the facilities. However, I do believe that they could contribute usefully to conservation. In 1988, I was part of an expedition that went to Southern Guyana to carry out a census of the Sun Conure (Aratinga Solstitialsis). We found a number of large flocks and concluded that their numbers were sufficient to be confident about the species' future. I was horrified to discover that the latest census has concluded that they are now extremely rare in the wild. Psittacine reported that numbers could be as low as 68 (I find that hard to believe but can't dispute it), though the survivors had a decent habitat, were no longer trapped for the pet trade and were reproducing. The species is not in real danger of extinction, since many exist in aviculture. There were at least 20 at the NPS and most seemed bird imprinted; this may be because they are very challenging as pets (I have a rescue bird who is delightful for me and my family (most of the time) but hates everyone else and drove his previous owner to distraction). Inexperienced owners are attracted by the beautiful plumage but don't discover the deafening screech and destructive beak until too late. Clearly, the NPS could have issues with giving birds that have been donated to it away to a captive breeding program. However, if those birds were allowed to breed and their progeny sent to Guyana either for release or for further captive breeding for release, this would boost the numbers in the wild but, more importantly, their genetic diversity, since very low numbers can lead to a genetic bottleneck due to inbreeding in some species. I am certain that other species at the NPS, such as some of the Amazons, might be candidates for a similar scheme. However, there is no point breeding common species and all birds should be parent reared. That way, the NPS might overcome the criticism that it does no conservation work. Hercules
  8. Glen undoubtedly has areas of great expertise; why not contribute in those areas to advise the management how to improve the psychological welfare of the birds? Sorry, for Glen read Greg - senior moment!
  9. Thank You. I realised after I had posted when I read a letter in Parrots magazine. If I am, as some clearly imply, an NPS plant, why have I clearly stated that there are areas where provision can be improved? This would also apply to every institution I have ever visited or inspected and does not always imply that standards are unsatisfactory. Two areas that Greg missed which I feel need attention are as follows: 1) Visitors are allowed to feed the birds treats and are encouraged to do so. This is fine as long as they only use the millet, peanuts and fruit on sale in the shop. But the NPS has a commendable policy of allowing visitors to bring their own food to consume during their visit. I would be concerned about a visitor feeding the birds some toxic item like chocolate in the misguided view that they might like it. Visitors need to be informed clearly that they should feed the birds only treats bought in the shop. 2) Theft from the walk through aviary is possible, but escape is more so with the access/egress arrangements as they are. Moreover, many birds feed on the floor due to millet etc being dropped there and there is the danger that they will be trodden on or grabbed by a toddler and injured. I believe more staff supervision is necessary. (One reader in Parrots mag seems to think that the location is a problem and that it shouldn't be "in the middle of nowhere" - well it's hardly the NPS's fault that I have a 250 mile drive to get there!) However, I reiterate: the standard of care is perfectly satisfactory although not quite up to the standards of (say) Paradise Park which may receive more funding (including a lot from me!) and has professionally qualified birdkeeepers. Which improvements are feasible at the NPS will depend on the funds available. Certainly, there was evidence of an active building program to increase and update the quality of the enclosures. Part of the reason for this seems to be initiated by the sheer number of birds admitted. And that's the question we all (pro NPS, anti NPS or purely objective) need to address: why are so many people abandoning their birds? I was often asked which was the best type of parrot to get as a pet. My answer was always "none, unless you are prepared to stick with it, warts and all for the rest of its life and change your life to suit it". Some unscrupulous parrot breeders and retail outlets will sell any bird to anyone with no check on their level of expertise. A young family with a toddler brought a baby African Grey into one of my surgeries for a health check and it transpired that this was their first bird. Sadly, they could not give it the attention and stimulation needed (surprise, surprise) and they ended up selling it after 6 months because it plucked itself through boredom. If they had been sold a cockatiel or Meyers Parrot (or something a bit less demanding than a grey) they might have coped. I ended up with 5 rescue birds from my practice, including Hercules, a 4 year old male Senegal who had a biting problem developed because 2 toddlers used to poke him. He eventually grabbed one (and we all know how hard Senegals bite) and that was his lot. His owners asked me to rehome him for them and I kept him (damn fool me but I'm too soft!) He's never bitten me once because I don't poke him and is now sitting contentedly on my hand whilst I type. Until we all stand together to improve the scruples of the breeders and retailers, the NPS will continue to grow like topsy and standards will be harder to improve. Don't you all think that, instead of denigration and criticism and comments like "hell hole" and "prison", constructive help would be a damned sight better? Also, at least establish the facts first hand and don't just swallow what Glen (or I for that matter) say. I suspect we're all on the parrots' side; we need to figure out how to work together. If those who clearly loathe the NPS succeed in closing it (which I suspect is the ulterior motive of a minority here), what will happen to the parrots? Will you look after them - all 1500+ birds? Thought not. Glen undoubtedly has areas of great expertise; why not contribute in those areas to advise the management how to improve the psychological welfare of the birds? But I won't hold my breath because there are clearly some on here with other agendas. For that reason, I'll stay anonymous and leave the forum now - I've said what I wanted to say. If those amongst you who are obsessed with my identity go round all the avian vets in the country you'll find me eventually, but do try to stick with ones that are still alive. Goodbye and good luck Hercules
  10. I visited this establishment for the first time last week in view of the comments on here, as I was so concerned. As an extremely experienced avian specialist and a retired veterinary surgeon who has carried out inspections at several zoos, including both Flamingoland and Chester, I can state categorically that some of the pictures posted give a wholly inaccurate representation of the state of affairs. The cockatoos on the enclosure wires are simply hoping to be fed treats and the amazons are not significantly overcrowded as this shows a small section of a much larger space. There are some issues to be addressed (some of which have been completely missed by Greg in his report) but most of Greg's recommendations reflect the fact that he is a specialist in behaviour and not avian health and welfare - I am. Some problems highlighted do not even exist in reality and in a couple of cases, his recommendations would have a negative effect in my opinion. I do intend to contact the NPS to make some recommendations to improve a few areas, particularly with regard to the provision of drinking water, infra red heating for some species in winter, the feeding regime (not the diet, which is actually very good and similar to what I feed my own birds) and the walk through aviary. I believe in positive support, not just criticism. I also contacted a brilliant young avian vet who has volunteered at the NPS in the past and who also worked with me early in his career - so I trust his judgement. He confirmed my views that the birds are generally healthy and that the level of care is highly satisfactory. He also pointed out that the records kept are thorough and accurate, the Zoo licence was renewed without concern and both the RSPCA and Environmental Health have investigated claims of mistreatment and found them to be spurious. Indeed, a senior member of the RSPCA confirmed that they are sick of complaints which turn out to be utterly without basis in fact and waste their time. I have no connection whatsoever with the NPS and no financial interest in it except for the fact that I took out sponsorship of a bird after my visit. And my final point is this. I am a 67 year old with 5 companion parrots, some of whom may outlive me. Would I be happy to send them to the NPS if this eventuality arises? I can say honestly that I would have very few concerns. Compared to some establishments (eg Knaresborough Zoo which I inspected in the early 80s and subsequently had closed as Mr Nyoka, the owner, would not listen) it is way better and, with continued investment and advice, may ultimately approch the standards set by flagship institutions like Paradise Park. Don't believe all the comments on here - visit the place and see for yourself but do it with an open mind.
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