Do not interact with the animals – but what if they interact with you?

So, as we explained earlier, you are supposed to leave alone those animals that are going back to nature. You should not give them names, not talk with them, not pet them etceteras. Basically, you should ignore them when you go into their cages to clean them (the cage) or feed them (the animals). Piece of cake. Unless, of course, that is exactly why you came to volunteer at the animal rescue center, to interact with the animals. Fortunately, that is not why I came to the JRC. I came to get some working experience with nature conservation. So, to me it seemed easy enough. I just had not considered what the birds would do.

Cristina and I are regularly cleaning the cages of birds, sloths, a squirrel and some iguanas, but let me limit myself to the birds. At the front of the JRC, there is a cluster of cages: one with a young aracari, one with two pairs of parakeets, one with 17 blue headed and white crowned parrots, and one with 10 bigger parrots. They are all on one return-to-nature track or another.

The first week and a half, I had virtually no problem ignoring the birds. They all kept their distance. But after that, they started creeping into my private space. The first were the blue headed and white crowned parrots that started their work already in the first week. They are funny birds, with funny sounds, and they show a lot of interest in what I am (or anybody who enters the cage is) doing. Well, first they devour the food that I bring in. Then they slowly start to surround me. Mostly by hopping towards me over the branches that are put across the cage. They are hopping, rather than flying, although that happens too. And then it begins with one that starts carefully nibbling my sock or shoe. Or my shirt. Or any part of me and my clothes that is colorful. Especially red is a color of interest. I shrug them off and that keeps them away. For some time. And then the hopping starts again.

Half a week later, the aracari just jumped on my arm as soon as I entered the cage while making its characteristic purring sound that makes any cold heart melt. Try to ignore that. It is impossible. The solution is to calmly but as as soon as possible, make it hop off your arm. Just bring it to a branch, and it will hop onto it. After a couple of times, it gets the hint. No hopping on humans, or at least this human.

I thought, that is fast. It took the aracari only a week and a half to get used to me, whereas I cleaned it’s cage only half of the days. Then again, it is a young bird that probably needs some attention. While I was thinking that, I stepped into the next cage with the two couples of parakeets. And again, as soon as I stepped in, one of them jumped on my arm. The same strategy also teaches them that hopping on arms is not allowed.

After a week and a half, the blue headed and white crowned parrots had stepped up their initial interest. In their cage, I cannot sit still for more than thirty seconds anymore or there is some nibbling going on. And when I turn my head, I have to be careful where I put my nose and ears because there usually is an interested party. One day, I looked up while raking their shit and food remains from the floor and looked straight into their eyes. All of their eyes. As you can see in the video above.

But today, they had disappeared. They were ready for their next step to freedom according to the veterinarian. Yesterday, they were taken to the place where they first get some more freedom in a big cage where they can re-train their flying. And then, some time later they will be released completely. Good for them!!

But I did feel a bit sad when this morning, I saw the open door to their cage. I will miss them even though I tried really hard not to interact with them.

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