Shasta: An Exotic Animal Rescue Success Story

I had been an exotic animal lover from the time I was a child. I love dogs and cats, but something deep in my heart always called me to animals that weren’t typically available at the local pet shop. As an adult I spent most of my time working with various exotics. From exotic game ranches, to alligator farms in Florida to a chimpanzee rescue; I had worked with what seemed like every animal under the sun. Through it all, I had always wanted a macaw, those loud, large beautiful birds native to the jungles of central and South America.

I had always heard that noise was a problem with these beautiful birds and had been around enough of them to know this to be the case. So in August 2008, I began looking for a blue and gold macaw with whom to share my home. Working the “rescue circuit” taught me something. There are hundreds if not thousands of birds in need of a home, between today’s current economic situation and being an “impulse buy” for most bird owners, I began looking for a bird to rescue. After several false starts (many people looking to rehome birds still remain very attached to them and are not as quick to give them up as they first think) I finally found one, “Shasta” had been an abused bird that had not been out of his cage (which was way too small for him) for a few years. His previous owners started out good with him, but due to hectic work schedules and teenagers in the home who tortured him, he was no longer a friendly bird. Coming from the world of venomous snakes, grizzly bears, chimpanzees, and mountain lions; his beak did not intimidate me. I had been bitten by worse.

Shasta had some fears, furniture moving would set him off and his screams could be heard two blocks away. Other than that, he seemed to be friendly and would greet anyone who came near him with a loud “Hi!!!” During the first few weeks, I got somewhat of an insight into his personality and his background as he would utter things he obviously heard in the past “Shut Up! Stop it! I’ll kill you! I hate you!” and I began to question the choice of rescuing such a troubled bird. After a few days, he would take food from my hand and jump on my arm and shoulder, I felt I was making progress, but he was still very timid.

After a few weeks I ordered a larger cage for him, more suitable for his size. I assembled it and stocked it with numerous toys and swings to keep him active. The trickiest part would be getting him to accept it as birds get very attached to their cages as the cage is usually the only thing that makes them feel safe and secure. I placed him on top of his new home and let him explore it for himself. He was scared at first, but gradually became accustomed to it, swinging on the perch, hanging upside-down, and soon opening and closing the large door. All my fears of this bird’s adjustment were gone by the second day when he went to his food bowl, chewed up a strawberry and regurgitated it onto my hand which he held in his large talon like a firm handshake. the next three words he spoke, I had never heard from him before that day and they came from a place in his heart and mind which almost seemed forgotten. He looked me in the eye as he spoke those life changing words and let me know that I had made a difference in his life.

Shasta said, “I love you”.

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