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Duration:12:19
Uploaded:2020-08-20
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While Romeo is settling in at Animal Wonders, see how and why he found his way here and learn all that went into the decision to take him in.

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Thanks to CuriosityStream for sponsoring this episode. Go to curiositystream.com/animalwonders to learn more.

Welcome back to animal wonders, I'm Jessi and this is Romeo. He's one of our newest rescues at animal wonders and I'd like to tell you all about him.

[Music]

Romeo is a 22 year old Congo African grey parrot and we first learned about him in June of 2020 from one of our previous interns. She was trying to help a family who was in need of immediate placement for their bird, due to a sudden move and not being able to take care of him anymore.

Romeo was originally owned by someone for about 10 years and then they became very allergic to him. This is actually a really common occurrence with people owning birds and having them housed in their homes.

African greys as well as many other African and Australian bird species have significant dander that can cause serious respiratory distress. And that's one of the reasons parrots like African greys who can live up to 60 years are often re-homed over and over throughout their lives.

So in 2007, Romeo was re-homed to a new family who cared for him the best that they could. He was well-loved and bonded closely to the mother, but she ended up having a life-chaning event and could no longer care for Romeo the way he needed to be cared for.

And then with a sudden cross-country move they just couldn't provide for him anymore. So the family was looking for a new permanent home for him and it had to happen pretty much immediately. Now, we don't have unlimited space at animal wonders and our situation with birds is more complicated than just saying yes or no.

So when we get asked to take in a new animal we have to weigh a lot of different factors.

If it's a bird the first question we ask is does this bird really need to be re-homed or do the owners just need more education and support in order to take care of their bird.

We don't want to just take in every parrot offered to us if that's not the best solution, because we don't always have the space or funds.


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(2:00~2:04If we determine that the best course of action is to get the bird re-homed, (2:04~2:08)we have some criteria to help us decide if we can take them in.

(2:08~2:11)First up is, can we provide them a good and happy life? (?~2:13)Then, do we have enough space?

(?~2:16)And do we have the funds to cover any potential healthcare needs? (?~2:20)Also, will they fit into our educational programs as an animal ambassador? (?~2:22)This is also part of our organization's mission (?~2:26)and needs to be addressed when we think about which animals we care for.

(?~2:30)And finally, since the animal's care falls directly to me and two other staff, (?~2:33)we have to ask ourselves if we personally want to care for that animal. (?~2:35)Because we are such a small organization, (?~2:37)it does come down to personal choice.

(?~2:40)Now, even if we were willing to take in Romeo, (?~2:43)it wouldn't mean that he would simply move right in. (?~2:46)There's another reason that makes our situation with birds more complicated. (?~2:49)Our flock is ABV-positive. (?~2:53)This means that they all carry a very contagious virus called Avian Borna Virus, (?~2:55)which can cause a deadly reaction (?~2:59)called proventricular dilatation disease, or PDD, (?~3:00)in some individuals. (?~3:02)Now, ABV is an interesting virus (?~3:06)because the majority of parrots in the pet trade actually have it, (?~3:08)but don't show symptoms. (?~3:11)This virus is not zoonotic, so it can't be passed to humans, (?~3:15)but it can be passed to any species of parrot or water fowl. (?~3:18)So if we were to allow a that didn't have the virus (?~3:20)to be housed near any of our parrot-type birds, (?~3:22)they would likely get the virus passed to them. (?~3:26)And then they would be at risk for PDD, which is something I'm not willing to risk. (?~3:30)So, in Romeo's case, there was no way for him to stay with his family, (?~3:34)and it wasn't a matter of choice; she physically could not care for him. (?~3:37)And he made it through our criteria since we have the space, (?~3:40)he's healthy, and eats the same foods as the other parrots. (?~3:43)And I was happy to be able to work with him. (?~3:47)So we made the arrangements, and he joined us at animal wonders at the beginning of June. (?~3:51)We set him up in quarantine so we could assess his health, and figure out our next steps. (?~3:54)So he had a vet exam and was tested for ABV. (?~3:56)If the test came back negative for ABV, (?~3:58)then he would not be allowed to join our flock, (?~4:00)and we would either have to find

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(?~4:02)a new placement for him at a different facility, o(?~4:06)r somehow arrange for him to be housed separately from the rest of our birds. (?~4:09)But Romeo's test came back positive for ABV. (?~4:13)This means that he has already been infected with the virus at some point in his life, (?~4:16)and because he's showing no symptoms of PDD, (?~4:19)it tells us that his immune response to the virus went well. (?~4:24)So that means that he can join the flock, because he's just like the rest of them. (?~4:26)So Romeo has completed his quarantine (?~4:28)and he's been cleared to join the flock in the bird room. (?~4:32)And we'll be introducing him to everyone over the next week. (?~4:36)Now Romeo is a super smartypants, as African Greys are known to be, (?~4:39)so it's been really interesting getting to know him. (?~4:41)Since he is an older guy, (?~4:43)it's important to take it slow because he comes with (?~4:47)plenty of life experiences and a well-formed personality. (?~4:49)From the history that we were told by his previous owners, (?~4:53)we know that he will accept pets on his head from a trusted friend, (?~4:55)so that's what I'm working towards now. (?~4:59)We also know that he doesn't love to step on to a hand, (?~5:01)and instead he prefers to step up onto a stick. (?~5:06)When I first offered my hand for him to step up onto, he showed clear signs of wanting to bite, (?~5:11)by leaning forward with his wings held slightly away from his body, and opening his beak toward my finger. (?~5:16)So I'm not going to push him to do something he's telling me he's not comfortable doing. (?~5:20)I've worked with plenty of rescue parrots, and one of the most common things I see (?~5:23)is that they've gotten used to people not listening to their subtle communications, (?~5:27)so they resort to just biting when they don't like something. (?~5:30)I like to build up our trust bond by showing them that I will listen to them (?~5:33)and they don't have to bite to get their point across. (?~5:36)At this point, Romeo and I are still working on our trust bond, (?~5:37)and it's going well! (?~5:40)But we don't completely trust each other just yet. (?~5:42)He does get super excited to see me, (?~5:44)but he still doesn't want to step onto my hand. (?~5:49)In order to get him out for play and training sessions, like now, I'm using a step-up stick. (?~5:53)But he's also not completely confident with this situation either. (?~5:58)When he feels a bit unstable on the stick, instead of gripping the stick harder with his feet, (?~5:59)or even holding on with his beak,

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he chooses to fly off the stick, or bail out of the situation. I've worked with two other birds that did a similar thing, and both had underlying physical issues with their muscles in their feet. Most likely due to improper perching at a young age, or not having an opportunity to exercise enough to build strength in their legs and feet. I have no idea how Romeo was housed when he was young, or in his first home. But it sounds like he already had this behaviour by the time he got to his second home. Another thing I noted was that the perches he came with were very wide in diameter, which wouldn't help him develop muscle strength in his toes because he could basically just sit almost flat-footed on them. So my goal is to make sure I'm giving him opportunities to increase his foot strength, by giving him different things to do every day. I've set him up with a variety of perches of different widths and textures and his food dish is clear across his enclosure from his favourite perch. He's also getting out every day for training sessions on varying perches and other locations. Now, the underlying cause of him not wanting to step up could be because he doesn't quite trust me yet. Or it could be lack of foot strength creating fear of falling. Whatever the cause is, it doesn't change my goal of getting him to step up onto my hand, which would provide better support that the stick. So I do have a trick that usually works in a situation like this, where a bird doesn't feel confident stepping onto a hand from inside their enclosure or off a  standing perch. Often, if you get them on the floor, then they will readily step onto your hand, because being on the floor makes them feel vulnerable. So I tried this with Romeo, and it did not work out at all! He just backed up and walked away, comfortable as could be on the floor. Which I should have expected, because his previous owners did say he was flighted, but instead of flying, he enjoyed walking around to get where he wanted. So, I'm thinking stepping up is going to take some more time to get established. But that's totally fine. I'm letting him set the pace, and I'm going at it from another approach. Instead of asking him to step onto my hand directly, I'm going to get him on my hand using targeting and misdirection. Romeo learned how to target on his

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on his third day at Animal Wonders. He had climbed onto my leg as I sat on the floor, and he wouldn't step onto my hand or stick, and he wouldn't step off my leg, even if I moved. Instead, he bit the stick and threatened to bite my leg if I tried to move him. So I got myself a serious situation. And I wanted to resolve it without creating distrust in the beginning of our relationship. So I looked around and saw a paint stir stick, and luckily had some treats in my pocket. And in about three minutes, he understood targeting, and I was able to target him off my leg and onto his stick, and everything was just fine. Since then, he's learned to spin in a circle, and target in multiple locations. He does have a fear of new objects, so since he's so comfortable with targeting, we're using that to work him through those fears. And it's no big deal, huh? Turn around! Good! Well done! And next up is getting him comfortable with a travel crate, so he can eventually travel to public presentations as an ambassador for his species. He's already making progress, and I don't think it will take much longer before he's as comfortable inside the crate as he is outside. Romeo came with some block toys, but since being here, he hasn't shown much interest in that kind of toy. But he is very into these soft wood kebab toys. So much so that he's gone through one almost every day. So if you'd like to give Romeo a warm welcome into the Animal Wonders family, you can head over to our Amazon wishlist at the link below, and get him his favourite toy. I also wanted to mention that Romeo came to us on a poor-quality seed mix diet. We were able to get him mixed on to a high-quality pellet in just a few days, and after a month, he's finally starting to eat some of his vegetables. Some of my favourite things about Romeo are his intelligence and his creativity. Especially with his vocalizations. Romeo just understands concepts so quickly, and it's really fun to watch him assess the situation, work things over in his mind, and then act on his decisions.

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vocalizations, like he says "Romeo!" [Romeo] "Romeo!", "Hello!" [Romeo] "Hello!", "Night night," and "See ya later, bird!" and he also has a good variety of whistles and does a perfect imitation of a phone ringing. But he also learned new noises in his first week here. He can now perfectly copy the beeping of my van door closing, and the notification ding on my office computer. And I wonder what he's going to pick up next. I really hope it's not mimi the marmoset's excited noise, or Zeema the toucan's morning greet the sun call. So overall, Romeo is doing really well in his first few weeks at Animal Wonders. I'm excited to get to know him better, continue our training, and establish a strong trust bond with this handsom guy. So if you'd like to get Romeo a welcoming gift, check out our Amazon wishlist in the description below, and if you have an idea for what you think I should work on training him next, let me know in the comments. Now I love learning about different kinds of animals, which is why I recently watched this film on Curiosity Stream called Hummingbirds: Jewelled Messengers. Narrated by David Attenborough, this film takes a close look at the secret world of the hummingbird. I really enjoyed watching the breathtaking footage of hummingbirds in flight, while also learning about their important role as pollinators, and I think you'll like watching it too. You can find the film on Curiosity Stream, who's the sponsor of today's video. They're a subscription streaming service that offers thousands of documentaries and non-fiction titles from some of the world's best filmmakers, including exclusive originals. To sign up for an annuals subscription, go to curiositystream.com/animalwonders and use the promo code "animalwonders" during the signup process. There's no better time to dive deep into your favourite subjects and explore new territory, while we're all staying home. Stay in, stay curious! Thanks for letting me introduce you to Romeo. If you'd like to learn more about animals, and go on an adventure with us every week, be sure to subscribe to our channel, Animal Wonders Montana, and I will see you next week.

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