Seattle, Washington, USA: August 11, 2011
I am currently reading “Jung and the Parrot: Facts, Interpretations, and Connections“ by Phoebe Linden in the “Minding the Animal Psyche” (Spring, Volume 83, 2010). She writes about relationships between humans and parrots in terms of trans-species psychology where humans and nonhuman animals are “kin under the skin.” In these relationships she sees both beauty and the tragedy. So much worthy companionship is exchanged, yet parrots of unimaginable numbers have suffered, and continue to do so the world over as they come and go in human households. To prevent this suffering, people come together to challenge themselves to care more for these species, such as this past week at the Association of Avian Veterinarians Annual Meeting. One morning I attended a three hour “hot topic” conversation about raising parrots with or without their parents. In the past, many breeders raised young parrots by taking them away from their parents at an early age, which we are now learning leads to behavioral and learning issues that hamper a bird’s chance of flourishing. Of course there are exceptions, such as I was pleased to learn yesterday from Janet Swanson, an old friend of mine. She has bred parrots since 1984 and has never sold an unweaned bird, and often keeps her young ones with her until they are six months of age. She knows that these species stay with parents to learn how to be a bird for months and months in the wild, and she desires to give the bird the best chance to be a bird in a household flock comprised of many species.
Knowing what happens in the wild offers insights on how we relate for birds in our trans-species communities. As a veterinarian working in avian conservation medicine (and to be honest, really, I would need to say parrot conservation medicine) I encourage the conversation about behavior and welfare, avian and human, by engaging in and promoting research in cognitive ethology, conservation behavior, and conservation psychology. Below is an abstract of a presentation I gave this week that invites us all into a wider circle of learning and conversation, so that our circle of compassion for ourselves and other species may grow ever wider (for the full article, click here).
Welfare Insights from The Field – Abstract
This paper overviews the relatively new fields of conservation behavior, cognitive ethology, and conservation psychology as they are applied to wildlife conservation. These fields offer a multidisciplinary approach to conservation that emphasizes behavior, including the thinking and feeling lives of humans and birds. By incorporating behavioral analysis and insight in the mentation of others and how it relates to behavior, conservationists can design research and implement conservation intervention strategies that include and support species as well as individuals, including humans. This multidisciplinary approach of research and intervention can positively impact not only wild nonhuman animals, but those that live in closer association with humans, as well as the humans themselves. Exploring observations from wild psittacines offers awareness of current trends, elucidation of clinical applications, and invitations for further research and collaboration.