Animal Diaries Archive
Licenced for Lady
24 February 2006G'day everyone! It is Roving Sandi here again. This week I would like to introduce Lady and share with you the process I went through when attaining a licence to rove her.
Lady (or Ladybird as we affectionately call her) is one of the resident Sulphur-crested Cockatoos here at Australia Zoo and a member of our Wandering Wildlife team. She is in her early forties, quite petite (in fact, the smallest of all our white cockatoos) with big, characteristically female, red eyes and a very gentle, if somewhat timid, nature. Being a roving bird, Lady does not live on display in any of our bird aviaries, nor does she fly in our free-flight bird show. Rather, Lady moves around the Zoo with a roving keeper (such as myself), posing for photos and helping out with any questions people may have regarding cockatoos. Before roving can occur, though, the keeper must first obtain a Lady 'licence'. Easy, right? Wrong.
Anyone who has ever worked with parrots will know that they have a mind of their own, and Lady is no exception. Considered quite intelligent, they are very quick to decide who they do and do not like. Consequently, Lady bonds very quickly with some roving keepers while with others, it takes time. My experience with Lady has been the latter.
I have a lovely bond with Ladybird now, but this has taken over two years to achieve. I first began working with Lady in December 2003. At this time she didn’t want a bar of me. Time after time I would go into her enclosure and time after time she would ignore me. She wanted nothing to do with me and on occasions would even move to the furthest, highest point away. There was nothing I could do, no magic trick to speed up the process. I was at the mercy of her timeline. The only option was to be patient and let Lady progress at her pace in the hope that trust would develop. The stand-off continued for months until one day when I was bonding with Anthony (another roving cockatoo).
I will never forget that day. Someone close to me had recently passed away and I was feeling quite sad. As Anthony had wandered off, his usual practise (I still have to remind him that 'bonding' means actually spending time with the person), Ladybird took the opportunity to stroll over and nestle into me. Never before had she come near yet, on this occasion, it was as if she knew I needed comforting and was there to assist. From this point on our relationship blossomed. When I visited she always came straight to me. Ladybird seemed to enjoy our cuddles and kisses, and I believed there would be no turning back. I was wrong.
Our relationship hit a stumbling block when it was decided to relocate Lady's living quarters. All the roving birds were being moved into new enclosures which, although improving their conditions, upset Lady. After the move there were days when she would come to me and days when she would flee. There were days she seemed content and days she appeared to panic. I was beginning to think she might have multiple personalities! It was as though all of our hard work had been undone. With continued patience and persistence, though, slowly but surely Lady regained her trust. As a result, in November 2005, after two years of bonding and working with her, I was finally granted my Lady 'licence'.
Lady is a very special bird. Our relationship continues to grow and the joy she brings is endless. I love having the opportunity to share her with visitors to the Zoo but the next time you see us out roving together, remember all the hard work is done off-display long before we ever appear in public.
Our Amazing Sulphur-crested Cockatoos
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is probably Australia's best known parrot. These birds are often kept as pets, as they are extremely intelligent and are very good ...more