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Kiwa Centre: A day in the life

Charlotte Foxhall | Dec 06, 2018

 

It’s a cold dark morning in November 2018. The rolling hills and heathlands of the English countryside stretch out either side of me as I make my way down the track; it is hard to imagine that just over the next hill sits the Kiwa Centre, housing over 170 macaws.

Pulling up to the centre, I open my window and I’m immediately treated to the sound of squawking and chattering of the birds I am here to see.

What is the Kiwa Centre?

Tucking in to the food

The Kiwa Centre was built in 2017 with the kind generosity of Joe Davenport, who became aware of the plight of these birds when visiting his childhood pet macaw (named Kiwa) at the facility where she had been entrusted many years prior. Joe was horrified at the conditions the birds were enduring, and sought the help of the World Parrot Trust to find a solution. After much consideration, the Kiwa Centre was created, and a huge operation was undertaken to move the birds. Medical examinations were carried out and birds treated for their ailments, including overgrown beaks, malformed feet from standing on cage wire, and respiratory issues from the lack of fresh air and dirty cages. When they arrived at the centre, many of the birds were in a distressing state, and much time and effort has been put in to ensure they have the best possible outcome and future from this situation.

Jumping in at the deep end

Knowing the back-story, I am nervous and excited to see the birds and how they have fared in the year since their momentous rescue. I enter the feed room and am immediately swept up in organising the food for the day; weighing out the quantities of macaw food, fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts which form their daily diet. Loading the food and water bowls into the cart for the trip over to the aviaries is not the easiest but I manage and head across to see the first collection of macaws.

In the first aviary I visit the Red-and-green Macaws (Ara chloropterus) who are being prepared for their transfer to Argentina. All of the pairs are excited for food and pull the bowls back into the cage almost as soon as I swap them over. I feel so warm and happy for these birds which will soon be rehabilitated back into the wild where they belong to hopefully boost the numbers of their surviving populations.

In the second aviary, I am greeted by a blast of raucous noise as I open the sliding door and enter with the food bowls. Looking up I see a whole host of faces and curious eyes staring back; Blue-and-yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna), Great Green Macaws (Ara ambiguus) and Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao). I set the food down and begin the task of clearing and tidying up after the previous day’s food – macaws are extremely messy! As I clean, ducking under the ropes and branches that fill the aviary, some of the more inquisitive birds come closer and give me questioning looks – who is this strange person? As I place the bowls on the specially made stands, the macaws can hardly wait for me to leave before coming down and tucking into their favourite pieces of banana and sweet potato.

I carry on through the aviaries; cleaning, sweeping, tidying branches that have been pulled from their holdings and setting the food out for the birds. Some are more confident than others are and come right down for a closer look, while others hang back sitting on the higher branches and foliage waiting for me to finish my task and leave them to their food. Their shyness does not bother me – in fact, it enthuses me to know that if they are returned to the wild they will at least have wariness of humans, which may help their survival.

Toy making for enrichment

After the morning routine, I help the sanctuary keepers with the next big task of the day: creating enrichment toys. The area around the centre is thick with willow and hazel, so we set about selecting the bigger limbs for perches, thinning out the branches to scatter around the aviaries and piling up the offcuts for the toys to be made.

We set about dividing the piles up and selecting the best pieces for the toys we wanted to make, drilling holes in the wood for rope to tie through and lay out designs on the ground. To make the pieces even more interesting for the birds we tore up some cardboard, which we threaded onto the toys we had created: a swing for each aviary with play toys attached. Thick chains we drilled onto each swing to make them durable for the next fortnight.

After lunch came the difficult part of this task: taking the old enrichment down and putting up the new toys… all whilst balancing on a ladder! We successfully put the enrichment up in the aviaries with some careful balancing and juggling of drills and watched as the macaws came over to investigate (even before we finished!). The new objects were an instant hit, and when we checked back on the birds later on we found one of the cardboard strands had already been demolished!

End of a busy day

As the afternoon draws to a close we head back to the feeding room and set about cleaning up all the bowls and prepping the fruit for the next day. It provides a lovely moment to reflect on all the amazing snapshots of the macaws’ life I have seen during the day. As I stand, chopping, peeling and slicing the array of vegetables, I think about the future and my aspirations for these birds. Will they be able to return to the wild? Some undoubtedly will not be able to due to health complications but I feel content that they have such a wonderful place to call home anyway. What will happen to the ones that return to the wild? Will their rehabilitation be a success? How will they feel when that first touch of freedom blows through their feathers? Will their wild populations flourish?

I do not know the answers to these questions but as I wash up the containers and switch out the light, I have a wonderful feeling about these amazing birds.

A feeling of hope.

 

P.S. Such urgent rescues happen all too often and without advance warning.
To help ensure the World Parrot Trust can be ready to respond to efforts like this, please consider donating to our end of year fundraiser to help fill our emergency fund.
Learn more about it here: https://www.parrots.org/saveparrots