Decades of lockdown and loss of freedom - that is the deprivation inflicted on the captive sulphur-crested cockatoo, galah and corella at the Hastings District Council's Cornwall Park aviary.
Cockatoos can live for 100 years, galahs up to 80.
Good news! As well as Tania Thomson and her son Jack's great effort in organising a petition which currently has 1003 signatures and bringing the bird's plight into the public arena, I lodged a formal complaint with the SPCA on June 30. Its inspectors carried out an investigation and, as noted in the Hawke's Bay Today article, is in the process of uplifting the birds to place them in a foster home, which will greatly improve their quality of life.
The SPCA advised me several weeks ago that the birds will be in foster care until such time as future plans for the Cornwall Park aviary can be discussed, designed and construction executed.
After reading on social media at the end of June that people had concerns about the poor living conditions and welfare of the cockatoo, galah and rainbow lorikeets, I went and had a look for myself.
I had never been to the council's aviary before and to say I was shocked at the conditions the large parrots and lorikeets were kept in would be an understatement. I was disgusted.
One glance was all it took for me to see that the small cages the birds were incarcerated in were not OK.
Small wire cages had been constructed in front of concrete shedding. The largest bird, the cockatoo, was in the smallest cage (about 2.7 m x 3 m), too small for flight.
I initially contacted councillor Ann Redstone who informed me that HDC's vet had told managers that, while the birds appeared physically healthy, the cages were not-fit-for-purpose (too small) and that rats were possibly getting in.
I looked up the 2019 Draft Cornwall Park Reserve Management Plan and noted that staff didn't propose any improvements at the aviary until 2022/23.
Concerned submitters had questioned the health and wellbeing of the cockatoo and asked for improvements to be fast-tracked, yet 17 months later, their heartfelt pleas had been ignored, as were various requests by the aviary's caring custodian.
I believe the council has breached its own policy 2.2.8 in the RMP. This states that the council is to:- "Maintain and enhance the bird aviary so that all birds are kept in a good healthy state, within a secure, clean environment that provides a suitable habitat and surroundings for the birds and is visually appealing to the public".
How do small, soulless pens tagged on to a dark shed equate to a "suitable habitat?" How are they visually appealing to the public?
The Animal Welfare Act 1999 states, among other requirements that, "animals must have the opportunity to display natural behaviours". In my strongly held view, these birds couldn't.
Birds are not inanimate art installations to be gawked at through a wire fence. They are intelligent, living creatures, entitled to live their lives in spacious, natural surroundings.
Councils should be operating "best practice" and leading by example, not forcing long-living birds to languish in small cages for decades.
While the main aviary appears to have reasonable space and height for smaller birds to fly about in and has trees, vegetation, food, fruit and clean water to provide a fairly natural habitat, the plight of the bigger birds (and the flock of demented lorikeets) is another matter.
Well done Tania and Jack and thanks to the SPCA inspectors for investigating and arranging to remove the cockatoo and corella from their miserable situation.
The birds have been silent victims all these years. Now the SPCA is uplifting them and taking them under their wing, their retirement years look much brighter.
Animals' lives matter.
*Jessica Maxwell is an animal welfare advocate and concerned Hastings ratepayer.