Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Meet Newman! He’s small, pink and has a very important role in the QBE Free-Flight Bird Show. Along with three other parrots, Newman the Galah collects donations from our guests after the shows. This enables guests to directly assist conservation programs the zoo supports, including the Asian Vulture crisis. People can come down after the show, hand Newman a coin, or a note, and he will deposit the donation into his special box.

Being a star you’d think Newman wouldn’t have much to worry about, but unfortunately this spunky galah has a slight issue with one of his feet. Many years ago Newman had an operation due to problem with his hip and as a result, he now favours his left side and gets the occasional sore on his leg. Every day we check our birds’ health and if we see the sore, we apply a special moisturizing cream to alleviate the issue. You may be wondering how we apply the cream regular to such a clever bird. The answer is through training.

Knowing that this would be something that we’d have to do more than once, and to keep everything as positive as possible for Newman, as well as maintaining our great working rapport, we trained him to lift his foot on cue. Newman is asked to present his foot and then hold it there while we apply the cream. When we’re finished we let him know he’s done just the right thing by saying ‘good’ and giving him a treat, usually sunflower seeds … his favourite.

Using this tactic has made both our lives and Newman’s so much easier and stress free, definitely making ‘Newman’s Anatomy’ much less of a issue than most medical dramas.

By Bird keeper, Brendan

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