The sad passing of Thomas the Timneh Grey Parrot
With a heavy heart we have to report the death of our dear friend, Thomas, the Timneh Grey Parrot. Thomas’ death was sudden and totally unexpected.
Photograph courtesy of Kate Boyce-Miles
David Woolcock, Paradise Park Curator explained “Many of you, especially the children, will remember Thomas from our Free Flying Bird Shows where she (yes, Thomas was a girl) would fly to children for a treat of sunflower seeds whilst we recounted her story.
As you may recall Thomas came to us in August 2008 from his previous owner, Nick Baker, the well known and highly respected naturalist and TV wildlife presenter. Nick and Thomas got along exceptionally well but there was a problem – Thomas started to attack both Nick’s wife and his young daughter. It was not that Thomas was aggressive or nasty by nature but that inadvertently Nick had “trained” Thomas to attack the rest of the family. It’s a scenario that happens all too often with parrots in the home, the wrong behaviour gets reinforced or rewarded and that makes the behaviour stronger and more likely to occur in the future.
Nick Baker visiting Paradise Park to see Thomas his Timneh Parrot.
Simply put, when Thomas wanted Nick’s undivided attention she thought she first had to bite either Nick’s wife or daughter which then resulted in Nick telling her off and taking her into his office with him. They would then spend quality time together, exactly what Thomas was looking for.
When Thomas came to the Park it only took about a week for her to realise that she did not have to attack anyone to get our attention and she quickly became one of the loveliest parrots that we have ever had the privilege to work with. So much so, that we added her to the Free Flying Bird Show where she daily flew to three or four children without ever attacking a single one. On the occasions when Nick and his family visited the Park Thomas also flew to each of them without any hesitation or aggression.”
Thomas with Nick Baker’s Daughter taking part during the Free Flying Bird Show
As well as delighting visitors to the Park Thomas also had an ambassadorial role in Guinea Bissau. Her image features prominently on a conservation education campaign poster aimed at protecting the remaining populations of Timneh Grey Parrots in the wild, and adorns the sign for the João Vieira Poilão National Park which supports one of the most important populations of Thomas’ wild, and highly threatened cousins.
We wrote to Nick to inform him of Thomas’ passing and below are some quotes from his reply:
“Really sad news, I regularly think of Thomas. Weirdly I was introduced in an online conference this morning and the host read out an old biography he got off the web and mentioned Thomas as part of that … minutes later your e-mail arrived.
At least she spent the last part of her life living well, with folk who could give her what she needed and wanted; a stimulating and bright life plus doing good for Timneh’s (and other parrots) in the wild.
It’s strange – she’s been in my head all this time and just knowing she was with you and doing well was comforting – now she’s gone, even though I’ve not seen her for some time, it’s left me with a Thomas shaped hole in my life. I guess we never really knew how old she was when she first came into my life – did you have any guesses on this?
Bitter sweet memories of the bird that demonstrated to me so well, just how unsuitable a parrot really is as a pet – I thought I knew what I was doing when I took her on!! My Dad still has a chewed up shelf in his spare room, and there is still a dent on the plaster of my office where she dismantled the wall when bored one day … I’ve even got the calandar she featured on, and the Christmas card with feather attached!
She will be missed, end of an era.”
We really have no idea just how old Thomas actually was but we do know that we shall all miss her so very much.
Read on the World Parrot Trust website about ‘New hope for Timneh parrots in Sierra Leone‘ by Rowan Martin, PhD.