According to a story about the Green-breasted Mango on NPR’s All Things Considered (whose original title referred to it as a “S. American” hummingbird), the bird was transferred to the Brookfield Zoo on Saturday for a 30-day quarantine before it will be released into the zoo’s free-flight aviary, in which another hummingbird currently resides. (Wow! Another hummingbird! The Brookfield Zoo obviously has extensive success keeping hummingbirds in captivity!). So the countdown begins: We have 27 days to convince the zoo that release in Texas is the most humane and ethical fate for this bird.
The NPR story consists primarily of an interview with Anne Oiler, the zoo’s Associate Curator of Birds. Ms. Oiler admits the choice to incarcerate the bird was controversial but repeats the unfounded conclusion that the bird’s evident disorientation would prevent it from surviving in the wild. Apparently the zoo consulted with “other institutions that have done more rehabilitation work with hummingbirds” and were advised against release because the bird has “shown some problems with his navigation issues” and “there’s no saying it wouldn’t happen again.” Yes, there is saying it wouldn’t happen again – I’m saying it wouldn’t happen again, and I’ve got the science to back it up. Too bad All Things Considered isn’t All Sides Considered.
Oiler’s comments implied that zoo officials believe that the controversy is as much anti-zoo as it is pro-mango. This could not be further from the truth, at least in my case (being a former zoo bird keeper), but this may be why I received no response to a voice mail message to Kim Smith, Vice President of Animal Care for the Chicago Zoological Society. The headline of an article in the Chicago Suburban News dated August 8, described Smith, a graduate of Arizona State University, as “working on updating zoo.” Hmm…I can think of a policy change for animal acquisitions that would give the zoo a fast ride into the 21st century.
To be fair, I did get a call from someone in the zoo’s PR department, but of course she couldn’t answer any of my questions about who made the decision to accept the mango and why and on whose advice. She promised to get someone to call me to answer those very important questions, but so far nothing. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with journalist Susan Kuczka, who wrote the Chicago Tribune’s original story on the mango. She had not heard about the mango’s capture and transport to the zoo and was delighted to jump right on the story.
It’s late and there’s nothing more to be done tonight, so for now it’s time to, in the words of Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, hang it up and see what tomorrow brings. But before I do, I want to thank bloggers Mike McDowell of birddigiscoping.com and The Birdchick herself, Sharon Stiteler, for covering the issue in their blogs and linking to my post. Thanks in large part to their loyal readerships, my hit count almost doubled in 24 hours. And kudos to all the other bloggers who’ve weighed in, and everyone who’s heard the call and spoken up in favor of release in Texas. It can still happen folks. We shall overcome!