I’ve been a big fan of toucans ever since I was introduced to Toucan Sam, the mascot for Fruit Loops cereal at a very impressionable young age. (Hey – it was the 70’s! No one knew sugar cereals were bad for you.) Apparently, I’m not the only fan of toucans. These pretty birds are popular pets which make them a high-value target for animal traffickers.
Being a travel photo addict, I took lots of photos of toucans at the Parque das Aves in Brasil which houses a large collection of toucans rescued from traffickers.
The Trafficking of Toucans
I finally got to see some real toucans at the Parque das Aves in Foz do Iguassu in Brasil. This park, located right outside the entrance to the national park of Iguassu, serves as a home for many birds that have been rescued from traffickers and poachers by the Brasilian police and environmental department. Right behind running drugs and guns, animal trafficking is among the most profitable of criminal activities in Brasil generating almost a billion dollars a year. Wow! That’s a lot of animals!
Although I’m not a fan of zoos and aviaries because I always feel sorry for the animals kept in cages, this centre is different. Many of the birds here have been deemed unfit to return to the wild by veterinarians due to the horrific treatment they have received at the hands of humans. For example, their wings have been clipped or they were kept in such small cages they never learned to fly.
The Parque das Aves has the largest toucan collection in the world. Toucans are popular pets and are one of the biggest targets of traffickers and poachers. Through The Toucan Project, the park rehabilitates rescued toucans as well as studying their behaviour. The scientists at the park try to let the birds have as close a life as possible to that they would have had in the wild.
The Truth About Toucans
Here are 9 cool facts about toucans. Did you know:
- Toucans are only found in the forests ranging from Mexico to Argentina.
- There are 37 different types of toucan which range from the really large toucans to the smaller Aracaris and Toucanets. The largest toucan is the Toco Toucan.
- The huge beaks are used to forage for food in the dense foliage of their forest habitat. Despite their size the beaks are really light-weight and sharp. The beaks are made from the protein keratin, the same stuff as human hair and nails and rhino horns (another animal subject to human cruelty). Toucans toss food from the tip of their beak into the air, catch it in the back of the beak and then swallow.
- The length of a toucan’s beak can be greater than its body! To help balance out all that beak, the toucan has a longish tail as well as two toes in the front and two toes in the back.
- Toucans are not very good at flying. Mostly they hop from tree to tree.
- Other than its use for eating, a male toucan’s beak is also used to attract females and show dominance. Yes, size matters. As part of their dating ritual, males and females toss food back and forth to each other with their beaks. This ceremony reminds me of the drinking game, suck and blow, sometimes used by humans in their mating rituals.
- They eat mostly fruit but sometimes also insects, eggs and baby birds.
- The toucan’s beak also helps it vocalise. And, they are loud birds. To date none have gone around squawking “Follow my nose! It always knows!”.
- Toucans lay between 2-4 eggs. Both male and female toucans share parental duties. Baby toucans aren’t born with their enormous beaks but instead develop them in the first few months of life.