April and Athena

April

We wish to start by thanking all of you for your patience in waiting to hear more news about the latest addition to our lab family.

Progress has not been as straightforward as we expected. Unfortunately, we received some difficult news regarding the health of baby April during her veterinary check-up, necessary before she came to the lab. Her results showed that she is ABV (avian bornavirus) positive. There is no cure for ABV and there is a correlation between ABV and PDD (proventricular dilatation disease). We do not know how April may have gotten this virus at such a young age, as veterinarians still are not sure how it is transmitted; it is possible she was hatched with it.

We are aware that issues exist with the test for ABV. First, the test itself is far from 100% accurate; there are an unfortunate number or false negatives and false positives. Second, there are several strains of ABV and no one knows which strains are dangerous and which are less harmful. Thus, being ABV positive is in no way a death sentence; few birds who do have ABV ever develop PDD. Nevertheless, we have decided that our lab is not a good fit for April.

We feel that ABV positive birds can live long and wonderful lives and are deserving of loving families of their own. The risk was not only of April becoming ill, but also of the disease being transmitted to Griffin.  If the situation was different and we were adopting April as a solitary companion bird, we would choose to take her, but in a research setting, as part of a flock, we felt we had little choice.  We spend years training our birds and becoming very close to them. Losing them is emotionally devastating as well as being a huge setback to our studies.  This was a very difficult decision for us to make, and we made it with the input of several veterinarians and some members of The Alex Foundation Board of Directors.

We wish our situation allowed us to take April as she is a wonderful baby, but we are also very happy to say that she has a permanent home with Laurie Baker who raised her! We are grateful to know that April has a home where she will be well loved and cared for.

 

Athena

We were extremely saddened by this turn of events because we were excited at the prospect of having a baby girl come into our lab to see just how much she could accomplish. We also felt that Griffin would benefit from having a new parrot friend, even though he seems quite content at the moment as an “only” bird.

Unexpectedly, we were told about another young female African Grey parrot who was available for adoption. Athena was hatched on April 17th, 2013. We went to meet her and she is also a wonderful, stunning baby who is playful and affectionate. She comes from Martha’s nursery at The Bird and Reptile Connection in Walpole, MA. We are looking forward to having her join our flock.

We know that many of you donated toward April’s baby shower. These items will be still needed and used for baby Athena. You will now receive a picture of Athena with the items toward which you donated and a thank you from Dr. Pepperberg. Those who have donated toward the items we will not need (April’s airplane carrier and plane ticket) will be contacted personally regarding how they would like their donations to be used. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at alex@alexfoundation.org so that we may assist you.

We thank everyone for their continued support and well wishes, and we will keep you up to date on all of Athena’s and Griffin’s progress.

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5 Comments
  1. Been keeping an eye on this project. ^^ Fully support you all, and I’m really looking forward to a new video update or something like that <3

  2. Transmission of avian bornavirus in parrots has been proven in the lab (by injecting virus directly into a bird’s bloodstream, brain, oral/nasal tissue, etc) but has not been completely worked out in a natural setting. Recent research has even shown that developing embryos can carry the virus in multiple tissues supporting ‘vertical’ transmission (from mother to egg). Collectively, these studies support a fecal-oral transmission. However, with so many tissues potentially infected with virus, other means of viral shedding (not just through the droppings) are possible. Additionally, infected hens may pass the virus to their young.

  3. You at the Alex Foundation did the right thing. Let’s all hope April lives a long, healthy life. Welcome to Athena! She looks cute in the picture.

  4. Sorry to hear about April. I hope she finds a loving family and goes on to live a long and productive life.

    How often do you add birds, and how do you go about selecting them?

  5. Hello, scientists are respected. My colleagues and I for Grey Parrot Alex intelligence is beyond the differences. Scientists hope that can give a conclusion, thank you.

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