There are many ways training can facilitate projects. When we put field biologists and trainers together we discover the needs. And in reality whether we acknowledge it or not, birds in conservation projects are learning all the time. Why not add some structure and specific behavior goals to that learning to help the project succeed?
|Kakapo feeding station|
|Enclosed kakapo feeding station with cat door|
There are three chicks that needed to be hand raised this year due to various challenges (cracked egg, weight loss, health issues) Ideally it is preferred that a female kakapo raises the chicks, however in some cases it is just not possible in order for the chick to survive. And at this stage, all chicks are very precious. All three chicks will be released into the wild on protected, predator free islands.
At this stage this comfort level with people provides an important training opportunity. These chicks are in a critical period of development in which they are open and receptive to new experiences. Anyone who has had a baby parrot in their life will be able to relate. Young birds will often let you do just about anything to them. Once they mature that open and receptive attitude tends to go away and the once sweet baby parrot starts objecting to being manipulated by biting or running away. To avoid this, good things like hand feeding formula, favorite food items and enrichment can be paired with anything you are trying to do with a young parrot, such as restraint training, wing manipulation, etc. This can have long lasting effect into the future and can teach a young parrot that handling is associated with good things.
Each bird in The Kakapo Recovery Program is carefully monitored on a regular basis. This involves, at a minimum, hour long hikes into the forest over difficult terrain. One of our main goals is to help make health checks and transmitter changes a stress free process. Kakapo just like companion parrots usually don’t appreciate being captured and restrained. One of our goals is to train these young chicks for these procedures so that when health check/transmitter change time in the field comes around it will be as pleasant as possible. The idea is that the birds will lead their wild lives as normal and occasionally a ranger will visit for a stress free health check or transmitter change.
This focus on training at just the right time in a young bird’s life can help make future care and specific procedures pleasant. However someday in the future the hope is for the population to become large enough that such intensive monitoring and care of each wild bird and chick won’t be necessary. The population would be stable and self-sufficient. Unfortunately we are not there yet. So for now training any birds we can to make their care as stress free as possible is a big plus.
Keep your on eye on my blog for more updates soon!