Mosman Kookaburras Lighter For Its Taronga Stay
Wednesday 9th June 2010

A Mosman Kookaburra is flying home today after shedding almost 100 grams under the Zoo veterinarians’ weight loss boot camp.

Monday’s weigh-in found that the bird’s was down to 447 grams, putting her within the normal weight range of an adult Kookaburra. The over-fed bird arrived at Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital just over five weeks ago unable to fly due to its hefty stature.

Taronga Zoo Wildlife Hospital Nurse, Gemma Watkinson, said: “A hundred grams doesn’t sound like much to lose, but for Mama Cass, as we’ve nicknamed the bird, it is was the difference between life and death.  She was found at Rawson Park, Mosman, being chased by dogs and couldn’t fly to get away,”

“It’s great that under the Zoo’s equivalent of ‘The Biggest Loser’ we got her fit and healthy again so quickly. As Kookaburras are very territorial we had to get her back out there to reclaim her territory before the bird’s family forgot her.”

“We are releasing Mama Cass this morning to give her time during day-light hours to reacquaint herself with her neighbourhood and settle back in with the family.”

In a case of killing our wildlife with kindness, the over-fed Kookaburra was 40 per cent heavier than the typical Kookaburra weighing in at 545 grams. Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital staff said that the bird without a doubt had been treated regularly by a local resident or two with fatty sausages or mince meat to reach this size.

“We have heard of cases were resident’s weekly shopping lists includes pork sausages for their backyard wildlife. They are killing these animals with kindness because they’re not feeding them a balanced diet and it affects their behaviour. Instead of foraging for food they come to depend on the handouts.”

Out in the wild a kookaburra would eat a whole small animal, such as a mouse or skink, and get a balanced diet of calcium from the bones and nutrients from the prey’s last meal. Butchers’ sausages are just too much of a good thing.

“A better way for residents to encourage wildlife in to their backyards is to plant native trees and create lots of hidey-holes where skinks and other natural Kookaburra prey will hide,” Gemma said.

Under the Zoo’s weight loss program, Gemma put her on a strict diet designed by the Zoo’s Bird Keepers and exercised the bird up to three times a day in a rehabilitation aviary. Fitted out as a bird gym, Mama Cass was encouraged to fly from branch to branch and her cardio training involved taking flight from the ground to a 1.5 metre branch.

“When she first arrived she could only lift herself about 30 centimetres off the ground. She has been a bit stubborn at times, refusing to exercise and has given me a few nips along the way.

“I’m thrilled that today I can return her back home and hopefully she won’t stray back to her unhealthy eating habitats.”