Endangered Species Act Changes Things For Us

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Dave performing aboard the Norwegian Dawn with Camelot Macaw Tusa

Last year when we disembarked the Norwegian Dawn just before Thanksgiving, our blue throated macaw Jinx was entered into the endangered species act, and therefore the USFWS seized our traveling permit for him. We were devastated and knew there would be not enough time on our brief two months off, to research, apply and receive a new permit for him under the act.

So not bothering, we changed our course of action for our current tour and limited the birds we brought in preparation of training one of our camelot macaws to replace Jinx in Dave’s bird act. We brought both camelot macaws, Comet and Tusa, in case one preferred it over the other but assumed we would try Tusa first since he is more of Dave’s bird than mine, and Dave would be the one producing him in the act. We also brought Bondi, our female rose breasted cockatoo and Cressi, our Congo African Grey parrot.

That was it! 4 parrots to our previous 9! Also last year as we had our inspection at home during our in home quarantine, the USFWS just brought us up to date on their rules, expectations, desires, etc. we always ask questions from being “out of the loop” for the duration of our contract at sea, and they’re always able to provide us with answers to point us in the right direction for our feature endeavors.

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Dave backstage with our Camelot Macaw Tusa

One of the pieces of information they offered us was that they prefer our birds are not in contact with all the passengers of the ship because those people are entering and exiting the ports and could possibly pass diseases.

The risk is higher, anyway. So between new laws, not being able to bring certain birds, having to train new ones in their place and not being able to offer the interactions with our parrots any longer, we decided to scale down to the four birds instead of nine, and no longer offer our behind the scenes bird show on board. We also took on an 11 month contract, which is our longest ever, and thought it best to scale back so we meet burn out much slower.

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Jamieleigh backstage with Camelot Macaw Tusa

We successfully trained Tusa, our younger camelot macaw in Jinx’s place and found that his colors and size show up much better to the eye of the audience. We’re so much happier with him in Jinx’s position in the show! And we never would have tried it without the road blocks we ran into. So it’s one of those blessings in disguise.

Another thing we worked in our first week back on board (and we expected these greater changes to take much longer!) was Cressi in a release box for a routine called Grandpa’s Airplane where I was previously running up the dark aisle with her and releasing her from my hand. On our time off we had a release box made for her and were able to mount it and have her fly from it right away in our rehearsals.

We were so pleased, here is a video of her doing it in our tech run the morning of our show: Check out our video of Cressi coming out of our release box! When we return home this spring for 30 days, we plan to leave Comet at home as well and replace our finale with a new illusion and no longer a bird flight of Tusa and Comet.

With Tusa’s new role in the show, he has not been too enticed to fly in at the end with his brother. And sticking to our own personal rule of each bird having ONE task in the show, we have strayed away from that with having to replace Jinx with Tusa.

Our current plan (in the entertainment world it’s always changing and yet somehow always booked far in advance at the same time…) is to join the Norwegian Spirit in January 2017 without any birds, or at the very most one parrot and our doves depending on how difficult it proves to be of a task.

The risk of not doing it properly can lead to our birds being seized and killed so it’s not a risk we are willing to take if we aren’t 100% confident in being able to do it. Because we’ve currently always imported and exported through the US, and the birds have always technically been in “transit” the officials know us and have been very accommodating with us in this process - but not knowing the process in the other countries has us on the edge of our toes.

For now, if you come to see us on the NCL Dawn, you will see Bondi, Cressi, Tusa and Comet through mid May 2016. After June 2016, you will see Cressi, Bondi and Tusa. If you write to us at info@birdtricks.com to let us know you’re coming, we can arrange a personal meet and greet with you and the flock! For more on our tour schedule check www.davewomach.com.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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