Thursday, 27 December 2007

dogs, intelligent birds, chocolate and 'New Scientist'

When I travelled to New Zealand in January this year (2007), Penny stayed at home with my family. I had two main ambitions - one was to climb a glacier - which I did, and very scary I found it! (The photos is misty because my camera fogged up in the cold.)

My other ambition was to see the famous Keas, arguably the most intelligent birds in the world. I didn't see them in the wild, but did have a chance to enter their aviary in a wildlife reserve and watch them for as long as I liked. Here is some of what the Parrot Society of New Zealand says about them:
The Kea is essentially a ground bird or that is certainly where they prefer to spend the majority of their time often entertaining any humans present with their sideways hopping. But when airborne, they are magnificent fliers.
The Kea is a very bold and inquisitive parrot and is certainly not afraid of people. They are notorious for making themselves "welcome" at ski lodges and I'm sure that their ancestors must have been car converters judging by the way they attack motor vehicles in particular rubber and plastic appendages such as the wipers, vinyl and windscreen rubbers to mention a few.
They also love to get inside buildings via any way possible (including chimneys) and once there nothing is sacred - if it can be chewed it is fair game!!!
Outside they are very entertaining - they enjoy aerobatics especially in a strong wind, they love rolling around in the snow and bathing in puddles of thawed ice
An album of photos taken by Bernard showcases these fascinating birds.

Therefore I was sorry to hear that Keas, like dogs, are susceptible to poisoning by chocolate. There is an article in this week's New Scientist that looks at the reason many animals cannot eat this food.

The article says that just 240 grams of unsweetened dark chocolate can kill a dog the size of a German shepherd. We, as dog owners, can protect our companions from this danger but keas are wily foragers and steal food from tents, backpacks, garbage bins and will even try to get into cars to see what might be edible.

The fact that dogs are especially vulnerable to chocolate poisoning has prompted scientists to investigate the possibility of selectively poisoning coyotes in the US. The article says:
After testing the toxicity of several different types of chocolate, Johnson came up with a mixture of theobromine and caffeine that killed coyotes quickly and with minimal distress.
I must say, that makes me even more wary of chocolate around Penny. It sounds as if it would be quickly fatal.


Mary said...

Maybe this could be the reason to finally ban chocolate from the household. It could benefit us to do so and it provides a reason for us to exercise restraint.

parlance said...

Mary, that's a great idea. I agree, we should do it.
The trouble at the moment is, over Christmas a lot of chocolate comes into the household in gifts and it's all too easy to put a gift down on the table on arriving home from a get-together and forget (or even not realise) that there are chocolates in the package. I'll have to do my duty and get all that dangerous chocolate eaten up immediately. Off to do it right now...