Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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In case you don’t know who I am yet, I’m Brendan, a bird trainer from Taronga Zoo, who has spent the last 10 months on a keeper exchange to Toronto Zoo, Canada. I’m that same bird trainer that last blogged about feeling like his digits were freezing off. Luckily for me I still have all of them, but more than that, I now have nearly a year’s worth of fond memories, more developed skills and … a strong desire to be able to wear shorts again. 

With seven days left working at Toronto Zoo, the question I get asked the most is ‘am I excited to get home’? I can answer that full-heartedly ‘yes’! At Taronga, I am part of a strong, positive team, of which, I consider my family and we are very privileged to be able to work with some amazing birds. These are birds that I’ve developed incredible relationships with from having worked with them day in, day out, and these relationships are something I have missed.

Still, it won’t be an easy thing to leave Toronto. Forming these kinds of relationships is not limited to a geographical zone, and I have been given the opportunity to work with people just as caring and animals just as inspiring. It will be hard, but I’m lucky to have experienced it, and as I’ve already said, made not only new professional contacts, but also hopefully, life-long friends.

Highlights of this journey include taking the trio of Harris Hawks down to a nearby meadow, as they rode the wind currents above my head; forming a strong bond of trust with an alpaca ‘Botan’, that was not anything but indignant upon first meeting me and laughing uncontrollably as ‘Koto’ and ‘Tari’, the New Guinea Singing Dogs, trot awkwardly through their winter wonderland home, each wearing two pairs of matching winter booties, walking with all the ease and grace of, to quote Zazu from ‘The Lion King’, “a hippo with a hernia”. 

To sum up the past year is not without difficulty, but when asked would I do it again, the answer has been ‘yes’ just as whole-heartedly as my response to heading home. Undertaking an exchange like this has been invaluable and incredibly rewarding; it has allowed me to gain greater perspective, work with exotic species, achieve new goals and further nurture a positive opinion of myself. 

More than that though it has helped to remind me of the plight of our natural world and the animals we share it with. With each new destination explored, it makes me feel like our home, like theirs, is just growing smaller and smaller, and with increasing demands for resources, means, without changing attitudes, ongoing hardship for the animals we share this planet with, and if we’re that unlucky, a loss of our precious species too. 

My stint at Toronto Zoo fills me with hope; knowing that zoos like Toronto and Taronga are working towards shared goals for the betterment of wildlife everywhere, is inspiring, and with your help, we can make a massive difference. Reducing, reusing and recycling, are just the beginning. Let’s not regret our actions, but rather, work together for a better tomorrow.

- Bird Trainer, Brendan 
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