In a recent visit to Loro Parque, Tenerife, Harewood Bird Garden specialist Lisa Bath recounts behind the scenes of her trip.
Last year was a big birthday for me and so I made it an aim to visit all the places and events I had been meaning to go to but never got around to. Top of the list was the International Parrot Convention, which is held every four years at Loro Parque in Tenerife. Fortuitously for me 2018 was the year of the 9th convention so I took this as destiny and booked my tickets. It also coincided with my 10th anniversary of working at Harewood Bird Garden. I began working here in 2009 with parrots and penguins after completing a BSc in Animal Management. My dissertation focused on Amazon Parrots, hence my motivation to travel.
The convention attracts delegates from 47 countries who all converge on the island to discuss everything parrot related, with three days of talks by some of the foremost parrot experts in the world. Participants from zoos, private collections, biologists, veterinarians and conservationists working in the field are given the chance to connect and share information.
For anyone interested in parrots, a visit to Loro Parque is a must. The Collection houses around 4,000 individual birds from 350 different parrot species and is one of the biggest collections in the world. The Loro Parque Foundation also supports projects to conserve parrots in their natural environment and is regarded as the authority on all things parrot and not only that one of the best zoos in the world.
For me it was a chance to gain knowledge and make connections with others who work with parrots. Not only was this in the form of the lectures and workshops but also just walking round the zoo looking at the exhibits. I attended a workshop on hand-rearing parrots run by the curator of birds at Loro Parque, which helped hone the skills I had developed over the summer when hand rearing two Brown Lories at Harewood. I also looked at the enclosures and gained some good ideas about aviary layout. As I result, I will be trying some swinging perches and different ways of feeding the parrots in my care that will add more entertainment for them.
The highlights of the trip for me were seeing lots of different species of parrot that I had always wanted to see. My favourite was the Pesquets Parrot, pictured. Also meeting new people was an amazing experience, especially as there were people there with so much knowledge to share – I learnt as much valuable information over the dinner table as I did in the lecture theatre.
Being a bird keeper and working with parrots is a dream for me. At Harewood we have ten species of parrot, some of which are pets which have been donated to us, and others are rare and unusual such as the Palm cockatoos and the Greater Vasa Parrot, the latter species has an unusual breeding behaviour whereby the female goes completely bald on the head. Every day is different and you are interacting with birds every day. I think it is a privilege to be able to work so closely with them and there is no greater job satisfaction than seeing happy healthy birds in the environment that you are providing. This is why I feel it is very important to continually learn and communicate with other aviculturists to ensure that the birds that you care for can receive the best life possible. The Loro Parque International Parrot Convention was an ideal opportunity for me to do this and I am already looking forward to attending again.