Beautiful but wild
Published February 11, 2009
From Beth Lindenau, Animal Trainer at the National Aquarium
Parrots are animals with amazing adaptations for life in the wild. Those same adaptations don't often translate well to the living room. They have a long life span and can be very loud, damaging to property, and have complex social and environmental needs. It is easy to see why the average person may not be equipped to have a parrot as a pet.
As a group, parrots are unique and fascinating. Their beauty, rarity, and ability to form our words captivate us. They are increasingly endangered in the wild with many hovering on the brink of extinction due to the dual threat of habitat loss and capture for the international trade in wildlife. Many companion parrots that have found their way into private homes are being surrendered to rescue organizations when the reality of living with a wild animal sets in.
In an environment that is foreign to them, such as our living room, they will still attempt to maintain vocal contact with their mate or their flock, which in this case are the people in the home. Often people are unprepared to accept this level of noise that can quickly get out of hand. Parrots are hard work. Still we love them. So what do we do?
I came by my love of parrots while working here. When the opportunity to work with them arose, I have to admit I was a little scared. I was determined to meet my challenge by learning as much as I could from as many sources as I could about how to care for them, train them, and provide a high quality standard of life utilizing the principles of enrichment. That is what I recommend to everyone, whether or not it is an intern starting out in the field or a person considering sharing their home with one. If you can learn through practice at a zoo or aquarium or a local sanctuary you will begin to understand the commitment. Constant learning, as new information is always becoming available, is a mandate. It is exciting, and with the proper education and knowledge, you might be able to provide a home to a displaced parrot.
As we are seeing in recent news, they come one by one, or in the hundreds when breeding operations go under. Whether they were born in the wild in another country or born in a home and raised by people, they are the same. A parrot is a wild, beautiful, complex, and an increasingly endangered animal. Their status in our world touches all of us regardless of nationality or occupation and a little learning goes a long way.