Interactive Lorikeet Exhibits... A Behind the Scenes Look

Sheri Hanna

Abstract


There is a special thrill in interacting with wildlife and it doesn't come any better than in an interactive lorikeet exhibit! Noting the huge tourist attraction of feeding the wild lorikeets in Australia, the idea was brought to full concept by Mickey Ollson, founder and director of Wildlife World Zoo in Arizona. He opened the first interactive lorikeet exhibit in the USA in early 1985. He has been instrumental in helping the public appreciate these beautiful birds with a unique up close and personal experience! These aviaries have proven to be quite popular, and the zoos are opening more each year, in spite of the tongue-in-cheek comment of gbing over to the dark sidetrnade by those in the know. In reality, interactive aviaries are a huge project, demanding much in the way of time, money and attention to detail. In spite of the challenges they have proven to be in the top five most popular exhibits in the zoos and this generates many return visitors.

So, what goes into an interactive lorikeet exhibit? In 2002, Avian Scientific Advisory Group (ASAG), in conjunction with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), conducted a workshop on interactive aviaries. The zoos folks got together and took on different aspects to research. Besides using their own zoos' experiences, they contacted many other institutions to find out about their experiences: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And there were lots of those! For example, one zoo opened its lorikeet exhibit to the public in 1999 to lots of anticipation and excitement. It was a new experience for them and the staff quickly learned that:

1. The beautiful landscaping was quickly destroyed,

2. Some of the mixed species of lories were

incompatible,

3. The guests were as challenging as the birds!

Interactive aviaries are very different from ncrmam avicultural set-ups and have unique management problems. They are considered a high-impact aviary whereas a regular walk-through aviary is considered low-impact. A number of topics on the how-to's were covered and some of the results are included here for your information and enjoyment.

ExHIBrr DESIGN is the first item of consideration. Adequate size for the number of birds housed is very important, and one bird per 40 square feet is the average. Aviary sizes ranged from 17' by 25', to 100' by 75'. Lower ceilings were better to bring the birds closer to the visitors as well as helpful in capture. Having the ceilings higher in back and lower in the front was recommended. A Howdy or  holding area is a must for separating aggressive birds or capture for other reasons. Substrate and walkways needed to be easily cleaned and adequate-sized walkways for traffic flow are important. Vegetation is essential as visitors like to feel as if they are entering a habitat. Though the lories will enjoy undoing the landscape, it can and should be replaced regularly. Cut browse such as bamboo, honeysuckle and other bird-safe plants can be placed throughout the exhibit to freshen it up and give the birds enjoyment; heavy ropes for perching are also good. Benches are recommended to encourage people to stop and really observe the birds. Traffic flow is a key item here. Vestibules and doors have caused many problems for both visitors and birds so largeenough vestibules and direction of door openings have a big impact on both public and bird safety. Entry and exit doors have been a trouble spot for several zoos, contributing to a number of injuries and deaths to birds as well as escapees! Walkways need to be adequate in size and keeping visitors on the pathways with railings allows the birds to get away from the guests.

 


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