This December holidays, Jurong Bird Park will premiere its newest High Flyers Bird Show, featuring an exhilarating line-up of our best-loved bird stars and new talents. The New Age Parents spoke to one of the presenters of the show; long time staff and Senior Bird Show Manager Rashid, about what he does at the Jurong Bird Park and why he loves it there.
TNAP: How long have you been working at Jurong Bird Park?
Rashid: I joined Jurong Bird Park on 19 September 1988. I was very active in NPCC (National Police Cadet Corp) back in school and thought that my leadership/instructor qualities will do much good as a presenter/trainer.
TNAP: What is your job scope in the Park?
Rashid: I am a Senior Manager of the Bird Show. My job is to ensure smooth running of the entire department. That includes not only the training of new birds, new trainers and new acts in the show but also training the senior trainers on how to execute their responsibilities to their charges.
TNAP: You have been working at the Jurong Bird Park for 20 over years. How do you keep your work interesting?
Rashid: When I first started in the Bird Park, I used to say that going to work is like fulfilling my hobby and it still is. I still dive into the 2 metre deep pelican tank to do its twice weekly cleaning. Husbandry work helped me to maintain my fitness and figure. The park is rich in flora and fauna. I immerse myself in photography and take beautiful pictures of not only birds but also flowers that I will share with my colleagues.
I have many friends who have visited the Bird Park and they are actually surprised to find that I have not aged through the years. I always tell them the secret is the daily activities that I do. I face the birds daily and working with them is stress relieving. And that takes a few wrinkles off my face!
TNAP: How did this job change you as a person?
Rashid: It elevates my caring nature. My observation skills are heightened as I have to always to look out for something different or abnormal in the birds’ behaviour. Birds are the best actors in the animal world. They have to look strong even though they are sick. In the wild, the weak will be singled out and get eaten by predators. They will do the same in captivity; so early detection is crucial. We also need to ensure the birds’ housing and health are carefully watched over. This translates to my heightened sense when I am at home too. I am always on a look out for bad safety practices from my family members.
TNAP: What birds do you handle or train?
Rashid: I have handled or trained various birds from the ostrich (the largest bird in the world) to one of the smallest, the lovebird. Along the way, I have also handled birds of prey.
TNAP: Which is your favourite bird in the park and why?
Rashid: My favourite bird is the Great Pied Hornbill. One of the largest flying hornbills in the world, it’s nothing short of spectacular when this bird takes flight during the show. With its massive yellow bill and casque, this bird will get the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the audience especially when it flies low above their heads.
TNAP: Which bird do you think best represents yourself and why?
Rashid: The Great Pied Hornbill naturally! With its sheer size, people would think that it is not gentle. But when it comes to taking care of their young, hornbills are the epitome of gentleness. During the breeding season, the female seals herself with regurgitated food and soil for 3 to 4 months. The male will be the one feeding both female and young. No supply of food from the male, no survival. It’s a huge responsibility but that is the way hornbills do it and this represents me in a way as I am the sole bread winner.
TNAP: Any accidents or injuries caused by the birds?
Rashid: I have the normal bites and scratches, but nothing serious. However, one example I can give is when I was held a Wedge Tailed Eagle for a parade after a show. A guest tried to stroke the eagle but I ended getting bitten on my lips. I ended with fat or swollen lips that day. It is important to let visitors know that the birds cannot be petted / stroked, as the birds can see another hand as an incoming threat, and they will bite.
TNAP: Has any bird flown away during a show and never came back? If yes, what happens? If no, what about during trainings? What happens after that?
Rashid: We have instances when birds are startled by strange noises like the aeroplanes flying overhead, and the birds fly off for a while, but they always come back to the Bird Park as they know that this is a safe haven for them.
TNAP: What is it like to present on stage?
Rashid: It’s a feeling that money cannot buy. When I was younger, I would cherish the constant accolades like how well the show was conducted. But now, the desire to educate the public about habitat destruction and the state that these animals are experiencing in the wild is be my ultimate goal. It will be even more complete when every conservation message is relayed effectively. The feeling of satisfaction is immense when I have guests telling me that I have done a great job in not only imparting knowledge and awareness of birds in the wild but also the enrichment activities that the birds in the bird park get.
TNAP: What is the most memorable or exciting show experience you had?
Rashid: When I introduce a new bird that I trained into the shows, or baby birds which perform in the show together with their parents after a successful breeding season. Breeding means birds are happy and it shows that the husbandry we engage in is top notch.
TNAP: Complete this sentence: “If you could be a bird, I would be a…”
Rashid: Great pied hornbill because I am huge and well equipped with a strong beak. With this beak I can hunt and bring in nutritious meals to my family. A hornbill is also omnivorous, meaning I can eat a wide variety of food from insects, rodents and a whole spectrum of fruit in the forest!
To catch Rashid and his feathered friends in action, head on down to Jurong Bird Park!
High Flyers Show details
Venue: Pools Amphitheatre
Time: 11.00 am & 3.00 pm (daily)
More information can be found at www.birdpark.com.sg