Whether you’re an amateur blogger or a professional news hound, it’s hard to resist the temptation to write so-called ‘human interest pieces,’ namely random anecdotes and stories that make you feel happy to be alive. Considering the bleak and depressing nature of the international news climate as of recent, human interest pieces are an important part of injecting a bit of optimism into your day.
With that said, perhaps you can understand why the Japanese news outlets are going crazy over the miraculous story of Yousuke, the pet African grey parrot who flew out of his cage two weeks ago in the city of Nagareyama near Tokyo. Although the worried owner contacted police, in the end it was Yousuke the parrot who found his owner, not the other way around!
After being found by a local woman, the parrot was brought to a veterinary clinic to be properly cared for. Like all African grey parrots, Yousuke is extremely chatty, and began performing popular children’s songs in fornt of the staff. However, everyone was surprised beyond belief when the parrot began speaking its full name and home address!!
According to the veterinarian, the bird chirped “I’m Yosuke Nakamura,” prior to stating clearly his full home address down, right down to the specific house number! Soon after, the bird was reunited with his worried owner, who rewarded the bird with a snack of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Mr. Nakamura, the owner, not the bird, was jubilant: “I’m glad I had taught him his name and address and name!” He went on to describe to police how he spent two years teaching the bird to properly recite his contact information in case he ever escaped.
So, just exactly how smart are African grey parrots?
The African grey parrot is considered to be one of the most intelligent birds, and wildlife experts hypothesize that it has the cognitive ability of a six-year-old human child. In the rainforests of central Africa, grey parrots have a long history of cooperative feeding, which may have preempted their impressive cognitive abilities, and enabled them to survive the feast and famine cycles that are common in this habitat.
According to Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a scientist that has conducted extensive research with captive African greys, parrots are actually capable of associating human words with specific meanings. Based on studies with an African grey named N’kisi, who learned around one thousand vocabulary words, and could actually string together complete sentences, Dr. Pepperberg has suggested that parrots may actually have their own language.
Sadly, while this story is a touching tale of a beloved pet finding his way back to his caring owner’s arms, it’s worth noting that African grey parrots are endangered, and are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
This means that exports must be accompanied by a permit issued by a national authority, which declares that the particular animal’s finding was non-detrimental to the species in the wild. Sadly, their demand in the pet market means that African grey parrots are one of the most heavily-trafficked CITES-listed bird species.
Moral of the story: Grey parrots are the smartest pets you can own (sorry Rover!), but please do make sure that they were obtained via legitimate pathways. Thanks!
** All images courtesy of the WikiCommons Media Project **