Saturday, June 27, 2009

San Francisco Zoo - Update

After presenting our concerns to the San Francisco Zoo about keeping the birds tethered and in the sun all day, they replied with the following:
With regard to tethering, the only birds who are tethered full-time are those who need to be managed in that way due to physical limitations. Our long-eared owl (who is congenitally blind) and Swainson's hawk (who was hit by a car, now missing 90% of a wing), for example, are not ever left untethered since both birds could injure themselves seriously if left unattended. However, the majority of the raptor collection are only tethered to perches for a maximum of 4-6 hours, spent on the lawn at the center of the exhibit. While there is always the possibility for a startled bird to attempt to fly, as is their instinct, soft leather bracelets and bungee cord tethers were selected for the birds, so as to minimize impact on their legs. At night, each bird moves to a designated secure shelter located at the rear of the building, where they are "free lofted," untethered, for approximately 18-20 hours out of each day.
I believe this is the long-eared owl:

One of their volunteers told us that this guy has suffered neurological damage after contracting West Nile Virus:

I'm glad that they're not out for longer than 6 hours. They also noted that volunteers are trained to watch the birds and notify the staff if a bird becomes agitated. Furthermore:

Due to the frequency with which the birds are handled, staff at the facility have the ability to rotate birds regularly on the lawn; on particularly busy days, for example, a bird who is nervous may be rotated into an off-exhibit space at the discretion of animal care staff. You may also have noticed the flight mews at the entry to the Animal Resource Center; a second flight mews is located out of view, at the rear of the building. A number of the birds are rotated into these spaces as well, including both flighted birds and some that are not capable of flight. Our golden eagle, missing her right wing as a result of a car collision, is particularly fond of her time in the larger flight enclosures; even though she's not capable of flight, she still gets the chance to chase wild squirrels (that sneak into the mews) quite often.
They seem to have the birds' best interests in mind. I still think that what I saw was a bad situation for the hawk, but hopefully it was a very rare occurrence. Most of the animals looked very happy.

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