The Future of “Toucanland”

Dear friends of Toucanland,

I have some big news. It is both a little sad as well as exciting, though before I share it, I’d like to first ask for your kindness. This has been a very difficult time for us, many months in the making, and because we have shared so much of our lives with the toucans publicly, it is out of both friendship and respect that I am providing you all with this letter. However, in opening myself up like this, I am really hoping for your empathy, as internet cruelty and harsh judgments are not something I need right now.

Paz the Toco toucan

We have come to the decision that it is time to find a new home for the Three-Cans. It breaks my heart so much to have come to this conclusion – I’ve been struggling with this for a long time now. In adopting these birds, I made a commitment to provide them with the best possible life for the rest of their lives. And this next step is keeping that promise and upgrading their lives in a way that is beyond my own reach. Keeping them to myself would be a purely selfish choice at this point. I know it’s the right decision for all of our lives. They are healthy birds, and I think there is a potential that they could live many more years, and I want to ensure those years are even better than their last ones with us. I love these three toucans so much, which is a big part of the reason I want more for them. I am not enough, our situation is not enough.

When we adopted the Three-Cans out of the crappy dolphinarium they were in here in the British Virgin Islands, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. David, my boyfriend, had some past experience with parrots and assumed that caring for toucans would be similar to that of caring for parrots. But it’s not – not even close. For me, in parrot-sitting a friend’s African Grey for 4 weeks recently, it brought all of this into glaring focus. Parrots, while a high-maintenance commitment in their own ways, are much better suited as pets in comparison to toucans.

When we took on the Three-Cans, there was so little information out there about toucans, we just jumped in blind with the goal of providing these birds with a much better life. And we have significantly increased their quality of life over these past 4 years, though it has come at a huge sacrifice to our own lives. It is no exaggeration to say that caring for these birds has taken over our lives in ways we never wanted or anticipated. This is why I have spent so much effort on my Toucans as Pets page here on this website – there is no way we would have ever signed up for this had we had any clue of the realities of their care before we adopted them.

Pepe the Toucan

Though I have constant anxiety that this sounds horribly selfish, I must admit defeat – I just can’t do this anymore. We have sacrificed so much for these birds in time, money, and energy, and it has come at too great a price – having to prioritize their needs above our own has been detrimental to our life together, my career, and my overall well-being. I share this not as a means to evoke pity or to complain, but because I want to be honest. I’ve always wanted this site to be an accurate account of life with toucans, not a glossy depiction by a breeder with ulterior motives. If you have followed our adventures for any length of time, you know that I am a committed, animal-loving person who adores her pets and is willing to sacrifice a lot for them, however, having toucans has nearly broken me. These birds should never be kept as household pets. They need to be in a zoo-like setting with multiple caregivers available to attend to their needs. As two people on a little island with no backup, it is simply too much work. These past four years, without a true break in their constant demands, have taken a heavy toll on us.

On that note, I am pleased to share that we have found a fantastic new home for Paco, Paz, and Pepe. They will be moving just a short boat ride away to neighboring Necker Island. Necker is a private island next to the one we reside on owned by Sir Richard Branson and is home to a variety of animals from lemurs, to flamingos, to parrots, to tortoises. All of the animals on Necker are incredibly well-cared for by a team of keepers, receive regular veterinary care, are enriched, and enjoy spacious, natural habitats. The Three-Cans will be no exception.

richard_parrot_neckerIf you’d like to find out more about Necker Island and its animals, check out this post and accompanying video.

Also, a bird friend who we met through this site, Vicki of Braveheart Dogs and Birds, visited us a few months back and had the opportunity to check-out Necker Island and tour the animal set-ups herself. You can read about her experience in this blog post.

I’m so excited for the opportunities ahead for the Three-Cans. Due to our friendship with the Necker team and close proximity, David and I are able to be closely involved in making sure this is as smooth of a transition as possible for the birds. We are helping to design appropriate aviaries for them on Necker to move into for now, and are training Necker’s keepers with the birds so they can all get to know one another slowly, still here at our house to start.

As Necker continues to evolve its animal programs, they have some impressive plans for the coming years that will be beneficial for the toucans as well. With more space, I’m hoping that Paz and Paco may even come to be socialized together as a pair in time. They both expressed interest in one another this past mating season, though their current aviaries were too small for us to safely introduce them to one another. Pepe is going to continue to be provided with a special, altered aviary to protect him from hurting himself if/when he falls.

IMG_0092

I know many of you have enjoyed watching the special relationship Paco and I have shared almost as much as I have. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to earn his trust and interact so closely with such an incredible creature. However, this past mating season in particular has helped me to realize just how unnatural and stressful this relationship actually is to him. It hurt my heart to listen to him croak for me incessantly, not understanding why his “mate” wasn’t by his side 24/7. It is my hope that by removing my constant presence from the equation, he may be able to accept Paz fully and enjoy companionship within his own species. I am confident that he will move on quickly and with little stress. Though he is attached to me to a degree, it is important to remember he is still a wild, undomesticated animal – he is not a dog. Whenever I have gone out of town, both David and our vet/sitter have let me know how quickly he moves on with his life and adjusts fine in my absence. He will be provided with plenty of attention and enrichment on Necker Island. I feel assured that the transition will be positive for all three of them.

I know this is hard to hear, but I hope you can understand what a difficult letter this was for me to write. I also hope that knowing what you know of me, my commitment to these birds, and my deep love and respect for them, I would never put them in harm’s way and have done my due diligence to ensure they will be as well cared for, if not better, than they have been with us.

Cartoon of Us

To those of you who have shared the joys and the hardships with us, great and small, I’d like to thank you for your friendship. Of the many wonderful things having the toucans has brought into my life, among the top was the opportunity to connect with all of you amazing people.

With love,

Chrissann

If you would like to keep in touch with us, here are some ways you can do so:

Subscribe to this blog (in the sidebar) – I may provide future updates on the Three-Cans or toucans in general and this will allow you to be notified of any new posts.

If you’d like to stay in touch with me personally, you can visit my website and/or follow me on Instagram @womanonarock for daily snapshots from my life in the Caribbean.

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56 thoughts on “The Future of “Toucanland”

  1. Its been a while since I visited your blog. We are planning our next trip to VG and its bookmark caught my eye and I decided to click and see what’s up.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. My son (now 10 yo) went thru a period where he LOVED watching your YouTube videos of the ‘cans, especially the one that you would have in the house (is that Pepe?) Your sharing brought a lot of joy to our house, thank you!

    I have the pleasure of knowing two falconers. I realize birds of prey are different from toucans but their handlers share the same dedication I see in your blog. They do what is right for the birds first, their own desires second.

    The best decisions often are the hardest to make. I hope your heart feels better soon.

    We hope to take Gumption’s tour this year, no tours available during our last VG trip. My son loves animals and would be over the moon if we take the tour. I am keeping my fingers crossed and watching his schedule.

    Will the ‘cans be there by February?

    • Thanks so much for your kind note, Heather! I’m glad you all enjoyed sharing the Three-Cans’ lives with us. I hope you’re able to visit them on your next visit – they, along with all the Necker animals, are a delight to meet in person. All the best to you, Chrissann

  2. Hey there,
    I’m so sorry to hear about this but I’m also filled with warmth that you made the best choice for your beloved Threecans. I’m about to follow you on Instagram and I hope I can provide a small dose of love and support for you in this time.
    With love,
    Rose

  3. Hey Chrissann, I’m sorry to see those beautiful birds leave the island but am also happy that they will have more space to behave like the beautiful wild animals they are. Feeling your pain… although I cannot empathize with you right now, I know that letting go of something you love is incredibly difficult and humbling. Thank you for listening to yourself and the ultimate divinity of nature!

    Love from Portland <3

  4. Chrissann,
    Knowing the sacrifices you’ve put into giving those birds a chance at a happy life is incredibly impressive and super-human. You’re a hero! Some hero’s just need a break so they can be available for others. I’m amazed by you and your ability to let these birds go somewhere with more space and for more people to learn about how wonderful they are.

    You are a GREAT pet owner, NO… pet saver, pet lover, animal lover, and sacrificer of your own life to enrich those of others – Melissa S has obviously never seen you in action or understood the demands of this unique environment. Ignorance is bliss (and judgement) as they say!

    You’re one in a million – I’m so proud that you’ve done this for those animals. I’m so proud of you xx

    KCMac

    • Thanks so much, lovely – I couldn’t have gotten through it all without you! I appreciate your friendship more than you know. Love and hugs, Chrissann

  5. As with everything you do, this is being done with such impeccable care, such intelligent, sensitive planning and such love. I have told you before. I am excited to keep up with your new adventures and know that the three very well-loved toucans will continue their adventures in a toucan land an island away. I know how hard for you this will be to see them move on but every parent should lovingly permit their cherished ones their next step. Perhaps Paz and Paco will be having their own three next mating season! Many hugs to a spectacularly beautiful and special young woman–

    • Thank you, as always, Kay for your loving support. I am so so appreciative of your friendship and understanding. Please do keep in touch! xo, Chrissann

    • We certainly will keep in touch. Our invitation remains ever open. We would love to have you and David visit. Hugs and best wishes through this transition.

  6. Chrissann!

    First of all, I am really proud of you. You are an amazing human being. Your honesty and openness is so refreshing and I think the world of you.

    You did an amazing job with this blog. Underscore, underscore, underscore. I hope that it stays intact for many, many years. It’s important because it’s honest. It doesn’t sugar coat. Four years ago I found your blog and it was one of many things that helped inspire me to really understand how to care for companion parrots before adopting one myself.

    I know the kind of love you have for those three. It runs deep to the core. I think I know that feeling… it may be the same I have for our own “greagle.”

    To make this decision had to be be one of the toughest things you’ve ever had to do. It’s the right thing to do because it’s based on a high level of understanding of their needs, respect for them and compassion.

    Wow. I’m sad. I’m happy. I’m watering up here. I wish I could hug you now…

    David

    • Hi David,

      Thanks so much for reaching out, made me so happy to see your name pop up! I am so appreciative of your kindness and compassion and am so grateful I met you and hope our paths cross again one of these days. I’d love a David hug right now 😉 Much love my friend, kisses to the greagle, xo, Chrissann 🙂

  7. Beautifully written sweetie. I know this was so hard for you. We all have to make decisions based on what is best for us and I support you all the way. Someday when we get there to visit I want to go to Necker Island too. I’ve told the boys about the toucans and they have watched the videos as well. I’m interested to see how you do visiting Necker Island when you do. Hugs. Jenelle

  8. I was so worried that the sad tone of this message would announce something terrible like losing one… I’m so glad is wasn’t!

    I’m so sorry Chrissann, I would have never guessed you were having so much trouble. You were always so incredibly dedicated, you really seemed like a professional caretaker! Do not let anyone’s judgement get to you. Few people could provide the level of care you did, and few would be selfless enough to let such beloved animals go for their benefit.

    I once had to give up a small parrot I only had for a few months because he was dangerously aggressive with my other bird. I have always felt terrible and miss him. But he went off to a home where he finally made avian friends and had a flock. That was the only time I ever gave up an animal and I can only imagine how terrible you must feel.

    I’ve loved your blog and your birds so much. You’ve been an outstanding caretaker. The threecans will love their new homes, and I hope you will visit them and keep us posted on them! Best wishes to you in this hard time, and I hope someday soon you can find new animal companions that will be less stress.

    • Thank you so much for the kind note, Lauren! I really appreciate your compassion and reassurances, it means a lot to me. All the best to you, Chrissann

  9. I’m disappointed. You’ve been an impeccable owner to these birds and I wanted to point people to your direction as an example of a great exotic pet owner. So it’s very disheartening to see you perpetuating fiction such as “he is still a wild, undomesticated animal – he is not a dog.” or that they should never be kept as household pets.

    If I understand correctly your birds were not hand-raised and/or maintained consistently as pets. If that is the case, you have no experience with hand-raised pet toucans and that blanket statement is inappropriate. Most animals make poor pets when they are not human-socialized, this is even true of domesticated cats. Lack of domestication is not the factor that makes animals ‘unsuitable’ to be pets, and lack of permanent bonding is not a trait of every so-called wild animal. The problems that you describe with one of the birds craving your attention (this by the way contradicts your statement about ‘wild’ animals) is something I experienced even with a cockatiel and can occur with domestic dogs. And yes, these pets can also ‘forget about you’ if you leave for a while and move on.

    Animals vary not just by species but environment and individual personality. I think your birds were thriving, but you need to do what you want for yourself. Just please don’t drag exotic pet ownership through the mud unintentionally, I know you meant no harm by those statements.

    • Hi Melissa,

      As I have said here on this blog in multiple places, the opinions shared are simply my own based on my own personal experiences – I’m not trying to come across as some all-knowing expert, I don’t think anyone who visits this site is under that impression. This is my truth, as I know it to be. This experience has made me believe deeply through my work with my own toucans, as well as others that I have helped over the years, that toucans – whether wild or hand-raised – do not make appropriate pets and belong in the wild.

      As with anything, there are exceptions, but in general, I believe most people should be discouraged from owning them. If you disagree, you are welcome to your opinion as well. Please keep in mind that you have been privy to a small part of my exterior life and there is much you may not be aware of in my situation. I am doing what I believe is best for these birds and yes, myself too, based on what I know to be true at this point. I do believe I am still an example of a great pet owner – this is a decision made out of respect for all involved.

      All the best,
      Chrissann

  10. Dear Crissann, we have much in common. I took in a Congo African Grey 4 years ago. I live alone in a condo. After 4 years of total dedication to the bird, and thousands in vet bills, I got her into very good health and full feather. I recently made the same decision as you, and carefully researched a lifetime care facility. I chose among the best 3 in the U.S., and personally visited 2 of them. I then took the bird to the sanctuary, and feel absolutely certain she gets top-notch care there. I also visit every couple of months, and she remembers me. I am 68 y.o., and anything could happen at this age. I decided to be proactive and make sure my Stormy was in the best possible care, and has a bird’s life, instead of a pet’s life. She is thriving, and I’m sure your fids will too. Congratulations on your courageous personal decision that was best for the birds when all is said and done.

    • Thank you for the note, Joan, and for sharing your story. I appreciate the kind words and support and wish you the same peace in your heart. Hugs, Chrissann

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