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Home > News & Events > Other Announcements > MAARS Turns 13 - Join the 2011 Flock Challenge! > Whistle: A Survivor's Story

Whistle: A Survivor's Story

by Galiena Cimperman & Jamie McCarthy, Directors

The first time MAARS learned about Whistle’s situation was in an email in which the sender knew of an African Grey suffering at the hands of one of his guardians and needed a safe place to go. The writer knew Whistle was being physically abused and that he had started to mutilate an area on his chest and destroy feathers. He had also stopped eating and would shake in terror when his guardian entered the room. 

A phone call provided more details and confirmed the urgency of the situation. The MAARS Directors held an emergency meeting and set out a plan for Whistle’s surrender and care.

Whistle is 8-years old Congo African Grey and for most of his life he has been the victim of physical abuse at the hands of a family member – a family member who should have been a trusted member of his flock. Whistle had feathers pulled from his body, his nails, beak and wings cut until he bled and he was hit andthrown across a room.

We knew we could not leave Whistle in his current situation and so on a rainy night in May MAARS staff met his guardian to take him to safety. Whistle was placed immediately into an experienced foster home where he could receive one-on-one attention and make the difficult transition from victim to survivor.

Over two years ago MAARS began a specialized program to evaluate and treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in captive birds. Drawing on similar work with primates, elephants and marine mammals in captivity MAARS began implementing treatment programs to help birds with emotional, psychological and physical scars.

The first step is building trust with the bird, allowing him or her, at their own pace, to feel safe in their surroundings and to choose the interactions they have with the humans caring for them.

During his time in foster care his physical and psychological wounds have begun to heal and he has shown a remarkable resilience and strength.  Whistle has a special fondness for children and interacts with them on a level that surpasses the need for language. He sits calmly with children outside his new enclosure with a keen eye on what they are doing, coming down to their level to share secrets and said his first words to them. 

Through the work of his foster guardians he is slowly learning that coming out of his enclosure does not mean something bad is going to happen and that he has a choice on whether or not he wants to come out. He is getting his appetite back again but still nervous about new foods.  Best of all he has not shown any signs of further mutilation or feather picking since being in his foster placement.

Whistle has a long road of recovery ahead of him.  Whistle is still nervous and on guard around adults and even everyday activities around his enclosure, like feeding or changing papers, still feels threatening to him. He will be receiving specialized care as long as he needs it but when he is ready MAARS will find a forever home for him where he can continue to heal and know that people will love and care for him without hurting him.


Join the MAARS 2011 Flock Challenge and Help Birds like Whistle!

Such success stories are the reason MAARS Staff are exceptionally dedicated to the organization's work and are able to continue year after year, despite witnessing so much suffering, tragedy, and trauma. Birds like Whistle who demonstrate courage, resiliency, and the willingness to forgive and trust, provide us with great hope and priceless rewards.

To show your support for the work MAARS does to help birds like Whistle, join the MAARS 2001 Flock Challenge and become a MAARS Supporting Flock Member today!


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