Zoe came to live with us in July of 2014 after her main human passed away, leaving his wife to make unsuccessful attempts at handling and interacting with her. Known for their remarkable intelligence, African Greys like Zoe require a great deal of enrichment and can hang on to even small traumatizing events. Extremely nervous, she panicked at small movements. If anyone focused on her too intently, she squawked and flopped violently to the bottom of her cage. Even opening her cage to bring food and water in and out was a challenge. We quickly realized we needed a "game plan" to help Zoe overcome this anxiety.
After collaboration, we set out on our mission to re-socialize Zoe and help her gain confidence in her surroundings. One of our most dedicated Junior Docents, Naomi, was instrumental in this journey. From the moment she met Zoe, they had a special connection. She would overhear Zoe talking to herself and singing while preparing foods for the other birds. Little by little, she became more curious and started coming closer to the cage door when Naomi would come by. So Naomi began leaving a peanut for her each time this happened. Before long, Zoe was readily taking peanuts from her hand!
As Zoe progressed, each day became easier. She was willing to be carried out into the yard inside her cage, and was less alarmed each time. She spooked a little less every time a leaf would fall, or a car would zoom by outside. But the truly exceptional moment, was when suddenly, Zoe decided she wanted to be touched. Naomi recalls, "One day she ran over to me, even though I was peanut-less, and stuck her head under my hand so I could scratch her. I was shocked, but happy to oblige."
This behavior quickly evolved to allow several of the female staff, volunteers and members to pet Zoe's head. She had blossomed from a frightened parrot, desperate to be left alone, to one who scolded you and stared you down with piercing eyes if you did not come sit down to scritch her first. If your attention was not on her, Zoe would sound one of her favorite sounds - replicating the loud reverse beep tones made by a large truck backing up. We so gratefully enjoyed these developments with Zoe, we did not know if it could get any better.
And then, Zoe met Christina. A kind, patient and loving woman walked into our sanctuary wanting to learn more about African Greys, as well as volunteer. But her interest was not in housing a "simple" bird, but rather in meeting the needs and growing alongside a worthwhile challenge. When she sat down with Zoe, she knew that she had to work towards adoption of her sweet soul.
Over many months, Christina made visits to Zoe. She brought her treats and toys, but most importantly, she brought her consistent, understanding attention. She asked dozens of questions, eager to learn about what life with a parrot like Zoe would be like, and how she could best accomodate Zoe's temperament. It was not long before Zoe learned the sound of Christina's car, and would pace anxiously at the floor of her cage as she saw her approach the sanctuary's gate. She enjoyed every visit, learning to exit her cage on Christina's command in order to relish head scritches and peanuts, as well as enter back in when Christina needed to leave. Despite her phobia of stepping onto hands, arms or sticks, Zoe had found a rhythm with Christina that made her happy.
Slowly, we saw Zoe's patience with us diminish, as she placed her confidence and bond in Christina. As a staff, we were immensely proud of Zoe, happy to know that she had chosen her person. And so, we came to the happiest event our sanctuary has experienced in years - Zoe's adoption.
Zoe is now happily exploring her new home with Christina and her partner Raymond. We receive updates on her daily progress, especially her new dance routines and quirky verbalizations. Thankfully, we will see a lot of Zoe, as Christina plans to bring her back to Free Flight often to visit with the flock.