Interview with Juan Cornejo, curator of the most complete parrot collection in Loro Parque. PART II

March 11th, 2016 | by LubosTomiska
Interview with Juan Cornejo, curator of the most complete parrot collection in Loro Parque. PART II
ZOOs and birdparks
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Read also the first part of this interview:

Interview with Juan Cornejo, curator of the most complete parrot collection in Loro Parque. PART I

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There are a few last hundreds of Blue-throated Macaws in the wild. What are your plans for future in this species? Will you join the project of World Parrot Trust?

Loro Parque Fundación has been working since 1995 with the NGO Armonia (BirdLife International partner of Bolivia) in the most important project for the conservation of the Blue-throated Macaw. The field program focuses its efforts in the monitoring and protection of the remaining birds, and for the moment we don’t consider release as a priority.

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Spix’s Macaw project was the base of Loro Parque Foundation and you left this program a few years ago. Can you explain why?

LPF left the Spix’s Macaw program due to irreconcilable differences with the Brazilian Government regarding who should form part of the program, but this in no way affects the partnership of the LPF with the Brazilian Government for the Lear’s Macaw. The LPF bred Spix’s Macaws and was the only holder outside of Brazil to return the ownership of all the birds to the Government of Brazil. It physically returned its Spix’s Macaws so that they can be used for a future reintroduction of the species.

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Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (c) Lubomir Tomiska  

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A large aviary for macaws (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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There are many parrot species which Loro Parque Foundation helps to save. What species are your highest priorities?

It’s difficult to prefer some species to other because we want to save them all. Over the years we have been supporting the conservation of many species such as the Yellow-eared Parrot, the Red and Blue Lory, the Great Green Macaw, the Philippine Cockatoo, the Red-tailed Amazon, the Grey-brested Parakeet, just to name a few. One of the biggest recognitions of our work has been the change of the status of the Yellow-eared Parrot in 2010 from “Critical Endangered” to “Endangered”. There is still a lot of work to do for the worldwide parrot conservation, but this shows that we are working in the right direction, and we want to continue being the driving force.

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Breeding season of the last year was quite successful for you because at this moment you are raising three chicks of the very rare Palm Cockatoo…

A few days ago we confirmed another egg.

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Great news. What is the main obstacle in breeding of this species?

There are many. The first obvious condition is to make a compatible pair, what is not always an easy task, especially if you don’t have multiple birds to work with. Maybe even more difficult is to breed these birds naturally. Only a few breeders and zoos have achieved this, LPF included. Because of this, hand raising is the most common approach but it has been proved not to be easy and many people fail. It’s a sensible species, but I believe that once you find out what the proper requirements are, it just a matter of routine. The same was about hand feeding of Triclaria. Everybody was saying it’s impossible to hand rear this species, now we can do that without any problem. This all is just a matter of trying and experimenting until the right way is found.

READ  The story of David Gammond from Al Azizia Birds Kingdom. PART II

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Palm Cockatoo in Loro Parque (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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A group of young cockatoos in one large aviary (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Do you believe there is any key how to hand rear this species?

I did not hand rear any palm cockatoos before coming to Loro Parque, but I got some experience so far. I believe that a coarse and dense formula improves the digestion of the chicks and there is no need of using complicated formula with many ingredients, neither to supplement it with complements and vitamins if you are using a good hand feeding brand. I am in favour of simple formulas and do not like to include products without knowing what is their nutritional value. After a number of different recipes with the palm chicks, I got to the conclusion that their nutritional requirements are not so different from other parrots with a high fat diet. Proper nutrition can be achieved without complex mixes. However, there are a few rules that I think it is very important to follow, these are: to feed frequently and with small amounts, keep the chicks at a higher temperature than most other species, and be careful of fungal growths. As I said the chicks are sensible, but once you know how to do it then it should not be a problem.

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You are increasing the number of species in LPF’s parrot collection…

With over 3700 birds of close to 340 taxa (species and subspecies), the parrot collection of Loro Parque Fundacion is the world largest taxonomically and it is our aim to continue growing by adding new species. It’s invaluable as a safety net for those species currently endangered and those that may become in the future if the current trends don’t change. It is also an amazing resource for science. The birds that we breed and make available to zoos and private breeders around the world help to reduce the pressure for wild caught individuals.

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We have mentioned that the breeding season in the last year was successful. How many young birds have you bred in total?

We bred more than 900 birds. But the number itself doesn’t say it all. We are focusing our efforts in those species that are not bred very frequently; there is where the breeding center of LPF can make the biggest difference.

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An atypical aviary for Eclectus Parrots (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Yellow-shouldered Amazon (c) Lubomir Tomiskaa

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What part of this number is raised artificially and how many are bred by parents?

Last year about 40% of all reared chicks are coming out of the Baby station (=place where the birds are hand reared). As general rule, we remove the first clutch of the nest after the first days of incubation and leave the last clutch to be reared by the parents.

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In 2014, you built a new baby station. What’s the purpose of this facility?

Coinciding with the last World Parrot Congress we open a new facility to hand rear our birds. Now, the visitors of Loro Parque can follow the complete process of hand feeding and development of the chicks. The facility was built using state of the art design and technology. Last year we had a pick of more than 200 birds in different stages of rearing at the same time, and everything worked well. I’m very happy with the result.

READ  The story of David Gammond from Al Azizia Birds Kingdom. PART I

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There is a new laboratory as part of the baby station. What methods are you able to perform by yourself?

It’s not part of the baby station literally but it is in the Animal Embassy, a new complex built in Loro Parque aimed to show the visitors some of the more important activities of conservation, investigation and education that take place at the zoo. The lab is probably one of the most complete that any zoo in Europe has. It has the capacity of running a large array of test, including full blood biochemistry and hematology, microbiology, and virus by PCR. It also does the water quality control for the aquarium and our aquatic mammals. It’s a great resource to monitor the health of the animal collection and to carry out our preventive medicine programs. It’s used not just for the parrots but also to take care of the rest of animals at Loro Parque such as apes, orcas and large cats among others.

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Cockatiels in Katandra aviary (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Green-winged Parrot (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Artificial insemination is a new trend of aviculture. What is your opinion about this method and how do you practice it in Loro Parque?

Artificial insemination is a technique used in aviculture for a long time. However, in parrots the results were very poor due to the lack of the proper techniques. Over the last few years we have been collaborating with Dr. Michael Lierz from Giessen University on developing the techniques for parrots and the results have been very promising. Semen has been collected from more than 100 species and the technique was proved valid to produce fertile eggs from an array of different species including large macaws and cockatoos. This proved that the reproduction of parrots through artificial insemination is possible and open many new doors. However, I’m personally cautious when referring to the technique.

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Why is that?

Well, the thing is that the technique is useful in only very particular cases and not as widely applicable as some people may think. In order to complete the process there are several preconditions that have to be met. You need to have a female, which is laying eggs. At the same time you need a male producing sperm of good quality. It is not easy to have both things together and when you do, most of the times the artificial insemination is not needed anymore. The technique is most useful in cases of pair incompatibility or when one of the birds is handicapped. With Spix’s Macaws it clearly showed how it can be used to increase a population. But we should realize that Spix’s Macaw is a very peculiar case as most of the males have very limited amount of semen, so the egg fertility by natural reproduction is really low. The collection of semen is part of the technique and a very useful tool to select breeding males based on their sperm quality.

READ  Rare Lear’s macaw hatched in São Paulo ZOO

Cryopreservation of the semen is also a very interesting possibility. The technique is not yet fully developed for parrots but probably will become common practice very soon, especially for rare species or individuals with rare genes. The semen can be frozen and preserved for future use, even after the male pass out, or is sent to a location to fertilize a female without having to transport the male. In all those cases artificial insemination is really helpful, however for regular breeding there are many other ways and methods we can try before.

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Blue-throated Conure (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Blue-bellied Parrot (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Can you briefly describe feeding of parrots in La Vera?

In broad terms we feed twice a day, with the wet food (fruits and vegetables) served in the morning and dry food (seeds and pulses) in the afternoon. Of course, there are several exceptions and a few very special diets such as for the Pesquets and Keas. With the lories we offer nectar and fruits in the morning, at midday they get a piece of fruit and in the afternoon more nectar. Some lory species also get small seeds. All our seeds are from Versele-Laga, they have wide range of mixes, and even a line that was formulated at Loro Parque.

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What nectar do you feed to lories?

We do our own mix that includes Orlux in addition to several other ingredients like bee pollen, honey, multigrain cereals and fruits.

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You have mentioned that you prefer seeds to pellets. Why?

We do not know enough yet about the nutritional requirements of parrots to assure that they have all their nutritional needs covered when offered a single product. It is not like in poultry where research has been really intense. Feeding only seeds have disadvantages as they are usually deficient in several vitamins and minerals. What we do is to offer them along with other items such as nuts, pulses, vegetables and fruits that complement its nutritional values. I rather prefer to offer a variety of fresh items than a processed food with vitamins and micronutrients added. The trick is to offer the right amount. Over feeding will allow the birds to select their preferred items over others and in consequence unbalance the nutrition of the diet. I´m not saying that it’s bad to feed pellets but it shouldn’t be the whole diet.

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A group of Red-fronted Macaws (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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White-tailed Cockatoo in La Vera breeding center (c) Lubomir Tomiskaa

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Are you going to build any new enclosures here in La Vera or in Loro Parque?

Yes, in Loro Parque we are finishing the details of two new large aviaries with an innovative design. Both will hold multiple species, one will display species from the Amazonas region and the other from Mesoamerica.

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Last question for you. What incubators do you use and why?

I have tried many different incubators, and for parrots my preferred ones are the Incas from GMP Engineering. We are very happy with them. There are reliable, very simple to operate and easy to clean. I believe that simplicity in incubation is everything.

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Title photo: (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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One Comment

  1. Jonas Berger says:

    nice site
    hope to meet you.
    best regards

    jonas berger

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