So long August, and hello September, the traditional start of our education season is upon us. We look forward to sharing our impressive Educational Ambassadors with you as well as our educational expertise. Each year we strive to grow and improve our educational offerings and this year is no exception. We are adding to our regular educational programming an emphasis on core standards and working with the teachers to be sure we use our charismatic wildlife to pique the interest of students to further these goals. There will be more on this in another blog…stay tuned.
Today I want to talk about our wildlife training program…in particular our flighted program. First let me dispel any misinformation spread by those with very little experience or knowledge about how these programs evolve. Major misnomer: We do not under any circumstances starve a bird into submission. Several things are givens in our training process. To start with, only birds with a certain temperament are chosen for the program. Each bird has an ideal flying weight….a comfortable range above or below which they aren’t flown. Below the ideal weight they are given more food; above it their proportions are lessened. (We should all live this way!) Each of our educational birds, flighted or not, is, on a daily basis, brought out by a handler for socialization, weighing, and a visual check over, and then they are fed on the fist. They are calm, interested, and unflappable in public situations…they seem to enjoy the activity. They are never too fat or too thin… perhaps that is why we have several educational birds over 25 years old.
As for the flighted birds, the training acts as a form of enrichment to their lives. They are, for a variety of reasons, unable to be released, but they still have the ability to fly. The training gives them something to think about, to do, and functions to increase their activity level. In other words it is very healthy for them. Their conditioning, longevity and temperament bespeak the value of the program.
I find it much sadder to see a bird tethered for hours to a perch, unable to jump around if they can’t fly and unable to reach any height…trapped… after all a bird likes to be up high, not tethered to a perch on the ground or a table where they often hang upside down unnoticed and stressed beyond belief. No, a bird should have a handler’s total attention to make sure its needs are being met at all times….we owe it to them.
Choosing the right animals for education is critical. There have been interesting species over the years that would have been great additions to our programs from an intellectual point of view, but their temperaments were all wrong. They were placed in zoos, breeding facilities or as display birds because it was better for them.
And, let me hasten to add that a program as impressive as ours can only be maintained by a deep bench of trained, dedicated, and interesting educators! One or two people can’t maintain the standard that we adhere to.
We are very, very sensitive to the well-being of the animals in our care. We haven’t done this job for 30 years without acquiring a great deal of experience and a robust dose of compassion. Let there be no mistake about this.
A healthy serving of respect should rein when our education team starts to move!
This Week at Liberty
The intake total now stands at 3394.
OK, we’re back at it on this Labor Day 2013, with an update on recent happenings at Liberty Wildlife. Mostly we’re seeing either adult animals or juveniles, but we did get an unexpected baby in this week. Plus, as we approach our education season, “Spa day” activities took place last week and we have some guest coverage of that event. We also get to see another of our BIG visitors from the near north who is here with something other than the usual problem…
We added another intern to our staff recently. Dustin Miller, an Aviation Management student from ASU, was only on his second day at Liberty when he came out to the facility at 4:30AM to help me load up the last two pelicans (so far!) for their trip to San Diego. This might fall into the “learn everything you can about your field” category when he explains what he had to do while attached to us during his internship. Good job, Dustin!
Two road runners came in last week. One was an adult as we would expect, and one was a baby – which we definitely did NOT expect. This is VERY late in the season to be getting in babies of any species, but along with his larger cousin, the tiny bird will get the same expert care all arrivals receive.
For more normal activity, we’re continuing to treat a small female kestrel with a badly injured wing as well as a night hawk, a pretty but feisty juvenile harris’ hawk, and a young swainson’s hawk who will unfortunately miss his migratory trip to Argentina this year because of a fractured humerus. We will try to schedule that bird for surgery in the very near future.
A great horned owl is trying hard to recover from another apparent gunshot wound. The metal fragments show up disturbingly well in the x-rays provided by Dr. Sorem’s portable x-ray machine and led to the quick diagnosis. No one has yet to explain why anyone would shoot such a beautiful (and protected!) creature but it continues to happen.
With the approach of Education Season 2013, our wonderful ambassadors take a day at the spa for trimming and replacement of older or worn equipment before they go out to meet the public. The care our education birds receive is second to none, before, during, and after any given season. As Wendy said in the note accompanying these pictures: “I got a few pix of the birds during spa day today (8/25/13). Belinda, Craig and I got all the ed birds to Jan and Joe with Alex finishing up by bringing the turkey vultures in. It was a long day but we got it done. Orphan care and daily care volunteers seemed to enjoy the endless parade of birds being taken into the office. At the end, Bailey patiently waited for his turn! ~Wendy” (He looks like E.T. on the kids bike in the picture!)
Another california condor is recuperating at our facility. This first year youngster had a mid-air collision with another condor and suffered a broken leg in the process. This is only the second one to visit us NOT to be treated for lead poisoning. One came in a couple of years ago with a strange wound on his chest and while this was being repaired, served as a blood donor for a transfusion to another condor who had acute lead poisoning.