Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Need the Love to Be Real

This past Sunday I did not plan for it, but I went to our local and grimy flea market. It was a horrible day to do much of anything; other than to pant in the heat waves. In this particular market there are two shops I visit, both of them dealing in parrots. I have checked into these shops from time to time just to check in on the parrots; I need to make sure they are being treated fairly.

In first shop I spent about 30 minutes inside, I carefully looked at each bird that was stuffed in the 30 cages the shop had. In the back there is a young scarlet macaw named "Skittles" who was returned to the shop when only a baby, and that was an entire year ago. This macaw is unruly and untrained, the shop owner has tried to wheedle me into buying her on more than one occasion, but alas college students are not wealthy.
The shop owner likes to think he knows how to train a parrot and get it to like you. Yet this bird hates everyone. Has he heard of Barbara Heidenreich? Has he studied Applied Behavior Analysis, or does he even know what it is? The answers are; Yes. And no. I've been more than willing to give him my card with Barbara's business information on the back, and I've briefly mentioned how and why she trains all species of exotic beasts. And even with my perseverance of a gentle leading hand of "train like this, not that" I see no headway in his training techniques.

For instance, he has recently brought in some help, a family member, a young lad about the age of 12 years. I spotted him when I first walked into the store, I obliged him a smile, and hoped that the techniques from his uncle had not rubbed off on him. I continued into the bird-dropping laden store and calmly presented myself to the scarlet macaw, Skittles, who was frustrated at being stuck in a cage. We talked and played for several minutes and Skittles had a nasty habit of screaming and biting her foot in frustration at random intervals of our playful interaction. So to help quell the beast I walked away from her, showed her my back, and started to interact with another bird for 5 seconds. After that I would resume our interactions. This worked very well, and after several more minutes the shop owner let her out so that she could hang outside the cage. Not long after that Skittles let out a bloody scream, so I just turned my back. But then I heard a immature person's voice come from the other side of the store that yelled "Be quiet!" and soon that young 12 year old came striding towards the bird threatening her with a large, wooden, plank. "You be quiet!" He demanded. And the bird shrank to the back of the cage with fear. The child still brandished the weapon; "You know what will happen if you are not quiet, ok?" and the child backed down, apparently deciding that that was enough to scare the bird to not be loud again. He placed the plank leaning against a stack of crap covered Bourke’s cages and left.
I could not have that child threaten and/or abuse the innocent macaw. So I hid the plank behind leftover construction material in the corner of the store. Apparently there are plenty of wooden leftovers to beat birds with. And why, why beat birds at all? Who gave these people the right to "train" birds this way? Whose gives these people the right to spoil the minds of young children with crap like this instead of the REAL science of behavior? We know why it is not good to use Positive Punishment and Negative Reinforcement, we know the reasons for using only the most positive and least invasive interactions.

Building a relationship with an animal by threatening to use a plank does not create real love or a real bond. It creates fear, aggression, and apathy, the animal now must comply with your demands (or else!) but he just doesn't want to. People are conditioning animals to avoid human contact, and then make the animals grudgingly accept it. That is not real love, it is not real passion for the living soul that is under your care. These actions are treason, treason of the heart to the poor animal and it splinters their imagination and their loyalty to you.

I will continue to be a pleasant, but persistent person to the owner. After all I now know that calm, positive interactions win hearts. Not grouchy, enemy-making, confrontational interactions. Just treat birds respectfully, like you do your customers.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog
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