Jurong Bird Park's senior birds retire in style

New exhibit houses special feathered residents at Jurong Bird Park

Eurasian eagle owl Max was hatched in 2010. She is undergoing rehabilitation for scoliosis and uses the aviary space to regain her strength to walk, run and fly. Rod Stewart is an Egyptian vulture that might be close to 60 years old. He now wears a w
Rod Stewart is an Egyptian vulture that might be close to 60 years old. He now wears a white bib across his chest to prevent him from picking at an old wound.PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Ten-year-old Wally, a brahminy kite, has an old injury on his left shoulder that prevents him from flying long distances or doing aerial manoeuvres.
American black vulture Carlos receives daily medicine in his food for arthritis. Otherwise, the 22-year-old bird and his brother Jose are in good physical condition.PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Eurasian eagle owl Max was hatched in 2010. She is undergoing rehabilitation for scoliosis and uses the aviary space to regain her strength to walk, run and fly. Rod Stewart is an Egyptian vulture that might be close to 60 years old. He now wears a w
Eurasian eagle owl Max was hatched in 2010. She is undergoing rehabilitation for scoliosis and uses the aviary space to regain her strength to walk, run and fly.PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
American black vulture Carlos receives daily medicine in his food for arthritis. Otherwise, the 22-year-old bird and his brother Jose are in good physical condition.
International is a 22-year-old turkey vulture, a species named for its bald and reddish head resembling that of a turkey. PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Sydney, a 31-year-old Blyth's hawk eagle, is functionally blind from severe cataracts. Despite this, he is comfortable roaming the lower perches of the aviary.
Ten-year-old Wally, a brahminy kite, has an old injury on his left shoulder that prevents him from flying long distances or doing aerial manoeuvres.PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Eurasian eagle owl Max was hatched in 2010. She is undergoing rehabilitation for scoliosis and uses the aviary space to regain her strength to walk, run and fly. Rod Stewart is an Egyptian vulture that might be close to 60 years old. He now wears a w
Sydney, a 31-year-old Blyth’s hawk eagle, is functionally blind from severe cataracts. Despite this, he is comfortable roaming the lower perches of the aviary.PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

A new exhibit has been created to house some special feathered residents at Jurong Bird Park, said Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

Situated next to the Hawk Arena, the new aviary accommodates the park's pioneer generation of birds that have retired from the Kings of the Skies show.

While they might have left the limelight, the eight birds of prey from six different species will continue to delight and enjoy their retirement under the watchful care of their keepers.

Birds from different species mixing in the aviary is actually good for them, as it stimulates them both physically and mentally, said WRS.

The oldest resident is Rod Stewart, an Egyptian vulture that might be close to 60 years old. Birds of his species have a 21-year life-span in the wild. He now wears a white bib across his chest to prevent him from picking at an old wound.

"By opening the aviary to the public, we hope guests can appreciate these elderly animals and learn how modern zoos care for them," said Dr Cheng Wen Haur, WRS deputy chief executive and chief life sciences officer.

Just like people, many of these older birds have common age-related ailments, experiencing muscle atrophy and vision loss as well as having to take medication.

Carlos and Jose, two American black vulture siblings, receive daily medicine in their food for arthritis and to keep them active. Otherwise, the 22-year-old brothers are in good physical condition, preferring to perch high up on the aviary.

All animals that have reached 75 per cent of their expected lifespan are placed under a senior animal care plan across WRS' four wildlife parks.

Without having to fend off predators or diseases, and with access to food and quality healthcare, animals under human care tend to live longer than their counterparts in the wild.

Under WRS' plan, older animals benefit from customised diet and exercise, as well as more frequent visits from the vets.

They also receive a full health check every six months and are assessed by their keepers and by vets for any health or mobility issues.

The senior animal care plan seeks to slow down the onset of age-related diseases and to ensure the animals continue to enjoy quality life in their twilight years, added Dr Cheng.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2020, with the headline 'Senior birds retire in style'. Print Edition | Subscribe