By Sheryl Wilson – Wildlife Carer
Whilst living in Perth a few years’ ago, I attended a property in Landsdale, for the purpose of purchasing an aviary which was advertised for sale. What I discovered at the property was beyond my belief.
“Pinky” was a pink and grey galah who had been living in a budgie cage, completely exposed to the elements, for 12 long years!! It was a bitterly cold day and Pinky was frozen to the bone. He was pacing back and forth on his small perch, repeating “hello cocky, hello cocky”. The bottom of his cage was 2 inches deep in faeces and sunflower husks. I learned that Pinky’s sole diet for 12 years had been sunflower seeds, and nothing else.
The task of purchasing the aviary was the furtherest thing from my mind, as I pleaded with Pinky’s owners to let me take Pinky home and make him well. It was obvious that the bird was very sick and in grave distress, and I doubt he would have survived that winter. The owners spoke very little English, and I left the property minus the aviary, minus Pinky, and very distraught.
Being a devoted animal lover, I cried most of that night, and knew that I just couldn’t leave Pinky in those atrocious conditions a moment longer.
Early the next morning, I returned to the property armed with $500 (it was my intention to try and buy Pinky). In the event that that was unsuccessful, I was also armed with a cocky cage, blankets, Trill bird seed, corn on the cob, and a pet carrier. Amidst my flood of tears and pleading, I eventually persuaded the owners to hand Pinky over to me, to make him well. Even the owners were crying as I loaded Pinky into the pet carrier.
Reluctantly, I gave the owners my contact number so that they could check on Pinky’s progress, although I had already made up my mind that these people did not deserve to “own” Pinky.
Driving away from the property, I pulled up and just burst into tears. I couldn’t believe that I had actually rescued Pinky. The smell emanating from him was both offensive and unbearable. His sole diet of sunflower seeds had left every pore and every feather in his emancipated body, oozing oil. He was unable to stand in the pet carrier, and just layed on his side cooing “hello cocky, hello cocky”. Pinky had quite literally, gone insane.
After 12 years of living in a budgie cage, it became apparent that Pinky had never actually been off the perch. His feet and toes were permanently bent into the shape of his perch, and his new quarters had to be sufficiently padded to enable him to “shuffle” around the bottom of the cage. I immediately commenced Pinky’s new diet and daily physiotherapy, to try and unravel his feet, introduced him to a lovely “warm” home, and, of course, lots of love and cuddles. (It is imperative that elderly caged birds are treated like “senior citizens” and kept warm and protected.)
A few weeks after rescuing Pinky, I was surprised to receive a call from Pinky’s owners, asking how he was doing and if they could come for a visit. I refused the visit, as I was unsure how Pinky would react to his previous owners. Unfortunately, my hubby and I had pre-arranged an extended holiday, and I very sadly handed Pinky over to another loving carer, “Jill”. Jill was to become Pinky’s saviour, as days and weeks of painful rehabilitation turned into months.
Pinky’s owners were eventually allowed to visit him, and it was obvious that they adored Pinky and he loved them, breaking out in fluent Vietnamese on their first visit. After seeing Pinky’s progress and new living and dietary needs, his owners asked for assistance in setting up a new home for him (under the verandah and protected from the harsh elements), blankets over his cage for cold nights, and of course, a brand new diet.
It had become apparent that Pinky’s owners had not deliberately set out to “abuse” their pet – it was simply that they were ignorant in how to care for a native bird. After 16 long, painful months, Pinky made a full recovery and was re-united with his owners. Jill still visits Pinky occasionally and enjoys a good rapport with his owners. Pinky continues to thrive in his new environment.
Pinky – I will never forget you. May you and your owners live a long and happy life.
Being a wildlife carer is a frustrating and emotional occupation. A lot of animals which come into my care have suffered extensive and horrific injuries, and survival rate is often very low. If I can make a difference to just one creature’s life, such as Pinky, or if I can re-educate just one owner in how to properly care for their pets, then it makes my existence on this Earth worthwhile and meaningful, and makes my occupation of “Wildlife Carer” the most rewarding job in the world.