Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Brendan Host

Getting regular veterinary check-ups is a normal part of life at Taronga Zoo. It ensures that all animals within the collection receive the best medical care, and are capable of living full, healthy lives. Recently our White-tailed Black Cockatoo 'Daggles' visited our Wildlife Hospital; luckily she wasn't unwell, but she was found to be carrying a little extra weight. Although we'd love her either way, it was decided that just like Olivia Newton-John she'd have to "get physical".

To help her loose this weight, trainer Grey developed Daggles' very own exercise regime! This meant that in addition to taking part in the Bird Show, Daggles was encouraged to do additional flights between shows. Not only would this help her to slim down, but it would also increase her confidence flying. If you've seen the show, you would have noticed our birds are quite dynamic in flight, but this takes time and lots of practice. Daggles was a mature aged bird when she joined the Bird Show team, so free flight wasn’t something she’d experienced prior. With each opportunity we give her though, she is vastly improving.

When we as people start at the gym we typically have goals in mind that are broken into smaller steps. We do the same with all our training, including Daggles’ exercise regime. We started with short flights that were less than a metre in distance, and gradually built up the distance. As Daggles’ showed more interest in flying to her perch than flying from it, we had her fly greater distances to the perch, and requested shorter flights from it. As she became more competent, we started to increase the distance in both directions, and now she is flying near the full length of our training space!

Diet is also a very important thing to consider. Sunflower seeds are a “good” fat, but at the end of the day they are still a fatty food. We only give these seeds as treats during training, but as slimming down was the goal we even substituted these for other treats, namely corn kernels and peas. As long as Daggles’ shows interest in it we can consider it a reward that works. Daggles can have sunflower seeds again, but like most things, it will be in moderation.

We’re very proud of the efforts Daggles’ is making and are excited as we see her transform into an “elite” athlete. 

Bird Show Keeper, Brendan Host

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