Friday, July 31, 2020

Investigating Maeve the Toucan’s Death


When it was announced on the 2CanTV Youtube channel that Maeve was dead at one year old, as anyone might have guessed, I was immediately suspicious of Brock Afentful’s husbandry being the culprit. Hearing about the red-billed toucan’s passing really shocked me, particularly due to the timing; I had literally just discovered that Brock had a toucan he never talks about, Zoey the collard aracari, and her disappearance led me to believe that there must be a reason for his silence and the deleted Reddit account where he showed her off. In addition to that, knowing how important the right diet for toucans is, I was irritated that Brock not only fed “junk” food to his current birds, but he also did so with Zoey, and finds it unobjectionable enough to have no problem sharing that information to his fans.

After posting an article and uploading my video discussing Zoey, the news about Maeve was announced days later. Therefore, if Zoey died prematurely, Brock has had 3 of his birds die well below their expected lifespan. That means Brock, proclaimed by himself or one of his fans as “one of the most experienced and educated toucan carers in the country” (and that the rest of us should just “live vicariously through him” instead of owning our own birds), lost 3/5 of his collection at 6 years old and under (the 2 remaining birds were obtained at older ages) not including his newest addition.

I say this not to suggest that he is a “bad” owner, and I take no pleasure from directing criticism at a person who is clearly devastated from losing a pet (I honestly wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy), but obviously, given the statement he has written on his Discord, the substantial funding he is receiving, and most importantly, his condemnation of keeping toucans as pets and exotic pets in general while he thrives doing just that, his operation more than deserves to be under the microscope.

A day or so later, I actually reached out to the facility that Brock obtained his bird from, and based on that conversation, I quickly made another vlog recording. However, after doing so, I came across a wealth of new information that I feel will shed some light on this situation. As usual, no names will be presented here and I will neither confirm or deny anyone's identity unless they wish to be known.
 
First of all, I spoke on the phone with someone who had private conversations with Brock and also owns a toucan themselves. This person was very adamant that Brock is a bad pet owner, and they believe that even stronger than I do at this point. From them I learned that, yes, Brock's first toucan Zoey did die in his care, and I was told it was due to bumblefoot. If true, this is interesting, as that was the condition Brock had been asking about to toucan "experts" when he posted a video (below) of the bird's injury on Youtube. On his Reddit AMA he told people the bird recovered a year ago, so apparently the condition resurfaced. It should be noted that bumblefoot is a condition that occurs when birds and other animals are kept on the wrong substrate, have improper nutrition, or other lapses in husbandry [1]. I was also told some other surprising things about his care that I would like to wait for definitive proof of before discussing.



Brock’s Claims

At first, I was highly skeptical of Brock’s statement on why Maeve died, which, predictably, exonerates him of all responsibility. His explanation, according to his exchange with unnamed individuals who he referred to as "toucan experts", was that Maeve had stunted growth and development due to being fed a formula intended for parrots. He emphasized that he had suspicions about Maeve’s failure to gain weight at a certain rate and most conspicuously, she had white primary feathers which was not normal for her species, and that it was due to a lack of betacartone.

He claimed the breeder assured him this was “normal” and Brock took that person’s word for it. Brock also said that Maeve had “divits” in her beak that he assumed would disappear as the bird got older, but it worsened. Brock suggested he felt that Maeve was not fully weaned. He was not satisfied with the breeders supposed lack of knowledge about the bird’s weights in the wild and decried the breeder's suggestion that he should “check Wikipedia” (even though the weights on the Wikipedia article come from the publication he mentions [5] and the weights of wild animals generally do not reflect their captive counterparts).

Brock received the results of the necropsy which, to my knowledge, have not been made available to the public, but he shared them with individuals with substantial toucan experience, who deduced that the bird died of a Salmonella infection as a result of being immunocompromised from improper formula and perhaps being sold before she was fully weaned. They also noted that Maeve had hematochromatosis despite having normal iron levels, suggesting her liver was not working correctly. I will go into more detail about this below, but I believe I have contacted one of the individuals who Brock discussed this matter with and have confirmed that this is what he was told. Therefore, I was able to eliminate my suspicions that Brock created this explanation to cover up another cause of death. I still have some concerns, however.    

Both Sides of the Story: Maeve’s Breeder and Caretaker(s)

There were two entities involved with the care of Maeve before she was released to Brock’s care. I was told, and it is also mentioned on Brock’s vlog, that the breeder did not hatch, feed, and raise Maeve, but that this was done at another facility, of which I spoke to a representative of. My overall impression of this facility, which I will not name, is that they come off as professional, the employees are educated in the sciences, and they manage and breed many uncommon and difficult to care for species. I did not directly communicate with Maeve’s breeder, however, it is the care of the birds, and specifically the formula being used, that is under scrutiny by Brock, and this had led to many of his followers, in typical social media reactionary angry mob fashion, to suggest this facility is “cruel” and should be sued or shut down. While one person did communicate with me, I was told that the breeder and the others involved were not interested in engaging in the controversy. The breeder did not respond to my request for comment.

I was, however, informed that Brock was offered either a refund or a replacement bird from the breeder (I only have conclusive evidence of the latter) if he provided proof that his care or the car crash were not involved in the bird’s death by providing the necropsy results that he had obtained, which he apparently refused, and to my knowledge, he still hasn’t provided this information. The question is, why?


As I demonstrated with Zoey, the missing aracari who is now confirmed dead, Brock appears to withhold information that may not present him in a favorable light, and one can’t help shake the feeling that he might wish he could have done the same with Maeve, but she has a solid and inescapable following. Brock not sending the necropsy is particularly concerning, considering in the video where he announced Maeve’s passing, he expressed a serious interest in furthering our knowledge about toucan husbandry and contributing to educational efforts, even going as far as to offer to pay for strangers to get their birds examined should they pass prematurely.

That is a noble cause, so why hasn’t Brock made his bird’s report public? Even if he was only offered a replacement bird from the breeder and didn’t want another animal from them (which is strange, considering he could have "rescued" this bird and kept it from making the breeder more profit), he should send them the necropsy and work with them, hopefully helping them to identify an issue with how the birds are raised and correct it, saving more toucans and helping future owners. He seems to have instead, opted to complain about them in his videos, and even accuse them of callously breeding the birds for profit, disregarding the birds as living things.

Parrot Formula


I have learned, in talking to the representative of the facility where Maeve was reared and the knowledgeable individuals that Brock reached out to with his necropsy results, that not only is breeding toucans very difficult, but so is raising them. In fact, the people Brock reached out to suggest that only “trained professionals” should be raising toucans while they are on formula, and they are vehemently against selling birds until they have been eating on their own for at least 2 weeks (I will discuss in a future post that Brock still went and bought a new toucan after Maeve's passing that did not meet this criteria). Inexperienced individuals may fail to properly monitor the bird’s weights and adjust the food they are getting accordingly, and baby toucans are prone to aspirating their food.

Knowing this, I have many thoughts. First of all, the breeder and the people raising the birds would obviously not be incompetent with animal care considering the challenging nature of toucan rearing. In fact, I wonder why it would be presumed that using parrot formula would cause a bird to spontaneously die at a year old, when there are numerous other variables present, including possible errors in not the type of formula used, but the amount of it and the frequency. Adding more food for thought, there can be other conflicting factors, including how the formula was stored (could it have been damaged by the summer heat?) that just shows that we can’t make conclusive statements about something the breeder or the caretakers did (and we certainly can’t accuse them of knowingly harming these animals for profit).

Furthermore, the parrot formula that Maeve was raised on that is inciting rage among Brock's fans was the formula that many toucan breeders used prior to the recent invention of the Mazuri ® Ramphastid Hand Feeding Formula, including the AZA-accredited Riverbanks Zoo, who developed the 2001 AZA Toucan Husbandry Manual [4]:

"A liquidy diet such as one of the proprietary hand rearing formulas originally developed for parrots is a good source of rounded nutrition. Kaytee Exact Original Formula is a suitable product for this purpose, although any of the other major brands are likely to be equally good."
 Bob Seibels, Curator of Birds / Riverbanks Zoo

While iron storage disease is discussed as a major problem for toucans in the literature, poor development leading to immunodeficiency and early mortality is not. Also, in other countries including those in Europe where the Mazuri Ramphastid diet is not easily obtainable, breeders still use parrot formula, and I haven’t yet found reports of an unacceptable number of their birds having white wings and dying under a year old. In fact, the respected facility whom Brock contacted who are suggesting Maeve’s breeders are responsible for her death utilized a formula that was intended for both parrots and softbills (Mazuri  Hand  Feeding Formula 5TM) at least as recently as 2012, and I was told by them that there were no observed white feathers on this food.

Another toucan breeder with extensive experience stated “Although the Iron in most handfeeding formulas for psittacines is extremely high, it does not seem to affect a baby Toucans liver, as long as they are weaned off it at a very early age. This is probably due to the high iron needs of a growing chick. I make a mix using standard handrearing formulas with a little applesauce, or other fruit added…” [7].

Therefore, Brock and his audiences’ outrage towards the use of non-toucan specific formula seems to be unwarranted.

Nutritional Deficiencies in Exotic Pets


To further expand on the above, it is actually quite normal for formula intended for one species to be used with another; otherwise we’d be pretty limited in what animals we could keep. For instance, you wouldn’t find formula for Chacoan maras, springhares, or spotted genets at Petco, which is why I used KMR kitten milk for all three as instructed. Unfortunately, especially with exotic animals, we have a limited understanding of what the right nutrition is for our pets and lack of interest and funding serves to keep it that way. The fact that most of our pets will probably have some form of nutritional deficiency is a truth that needs to be understood and accepted, and it is not just an exotic pet problem; even immensely popular pets like dogs and cats still have issues with nutrition, like the DCM concerns involving grain free diets.

It’s not unlikely that the Rhamphastid diet that some breeders are demanding be used now will be obsolete in another 10 years. That doesn’t mean that the current diet or the previously used diets are extremely harmful, and suggesting that a formula alone would lead to a bird dying the way Maeve did after she had survived adolescence of which birds are more vulnerable to infection [3][4][7] is something I find suspect.


White Feathers


It should be noted that Maeve had white feathers which I was told indicated a beta carotene deficiency. A deficiency of some sort was acknowledged by the breeder and caretakers in question. The individuals that Brock communicated with have each confirmed that the presence of these feathers may indicate that the bird is having development issues that affect the organs, however they also said “the damage can be repaired to a degree by improved diet.” and that the white feathers have “always been remedied by correcting the diet.” Yet Brock’s red-billed toucan never fully lost her white feathers. The last video where I could see these feathers present (below) was presumably filmed in June 2020. This may suggest this bird, perhaps in addition to a deficiency, had complications occurring that is unique to the cases of the other birds observed by Brock's toucan experts.



Another Cause of Death?


There are numerous variables that make it exceptionally challenging to draw major conclusions from anecdotes. In the case of Brock’s bird, he owned her for 11 months before she passed away, seemingly without warning. We are assuming that Brock adhered to what I consider to be a very simple diet for toucans: Mazuri Low Iron Softbill pellets and 3+ different types of fruit, and we are taking his word for it. Yet we know that Brock also feeds his birds “treats” such as fried chicken, fried shrimp from a po’boy, spaghetti noodles, and even fruit loops. This is why I’ve insisted before that these birds are fragile, and there’s just no point in giving them these foods even if it is in “extreme moderation” as he's said.

Brock’s description of how quickly and easily his bird died was terrifying, and made me go check on my own bird. Does this sound like a species you would want to take any chances with? Keeping in mind, this strange practice of his is only what he chooses to share with us (I also have not watched even half of all his content; there can be issues I have missed). We also have 11 months of care-taking of which we will never know what he does.



It also should be considered that bacterial infections, including those with Salmonella, while I can find a source that cites poor health as a cause of mortality in toucans [2], this infection can also occur in other situations and is actually a common finding in birds [7]. Immunosuppression has other causes besides poor development, notably chronic stress [6], which is a common issue with captive animals. It should be noted that Maeve was forced to spend time in a split enclosure adjacent Brock’s keel-billed toucan Beatrix (above), and their antagonistic relationship was evident in one of the videos. 

Of course, it would be compelling if there were a relatively large number of birds who exhibited the same or similar symptoms as Maeve and died prematurely from causes that can be determined to be a result of immunodeficiency with confidence. I was informed that this was the case but at this time I have not seen the exact number of birds, specific species, or any other pertinent information to confirm this. As of current, I've only seen the white feathers with two red-bill toucans, and this problem may be species-specific.

Even with compromised development, it cannot be ruled out that husbandry error exacerbated an already compromised bird. Therefore, regardless of what caused Maeve’s infection and death of which we will probably never know for sure, I think it is clear they should not be given strange food items for someone’s amusement or forced to live in conditions that are sub-optimal.

Brock didn't take Maeve to the Vet


This is something Brock can't blame the breeder for. As Brock described the issues with Maeve and how his new bird, Rhia, seems much healthier, I pondered why Brock's famous veterinarian, Dr. Thielen, didn't notice that Maeve was underdeveloped and would need supportive care. Then I learned that apparently, Maeve never saw a veterinarian. I see no evidence he took her on his channel, and I was also told this by the person who had private conversations with him.

This is a standard animal care requirement. It should be noted, that not only did Brock not take Maeve to the vet for a wellness exam, which is what new owners should always do, but Brock even suspected that there were problems with Maeve (white feathers, beak, and most importantly, lack of weight gain) and still didn't do so. Surprisingly, he had Maeve when he "adopted" Toupac, and he brought him to the vet, apparently leaving Maeve at home. Why? He gets ample financial support from his fans and these donations are supposed to go towards the care of the birds.

Furthermore, just to add to the evidence that this error that Brock made could have ultimately cost Maeve her life, I have had communications with someone who owns a red-billed toucan from the same breeder, possibly even related to Maeve. This bird, currently young, also has white feathers, as well as the same issues with poor weight gain. This bird was taken to a veterinarian, and it was found that the bird had an intestinal infection. After being treated, the owner has stated the young bird has more energy and seems to be improving.

Could Maeve have had a similar issue? Again, she failed to lose her white feathers, which is physical evidence of a deficiency of some kind that is not resolving. She spent almost a year in Brock's care which was ample time for the problem to be corrected, or at least ameliorated, but Brock remained clueless about her condition and did not seek help. Regardless of what killed Maeve, we know that this is a solid example of poor husbandry.  

Brock’s Statements about the Pet Trade and Why This Matters


Instead of reviewing his husbandry failings, Brock decided to use Maeve's death to exemplify why toucans shouldn't be pets. He essentially blamed breeders for what happened to him, declared he wouldn't be surprised if he loses another bird, and then he proceeded to buy another one for $6500 from an exotic animal broker who I am very familiar with and have purchased from. His actions defy logic, and reveal a special kind of narcissism and hypocrisy that I've seen before, such as with the Youtuber Camels and Friends, who eventually plead guilty to animal cruelty years after I identified her as a problem and received criticism for doing so (a video I made discussing her behavior was also deleted for "bullying" and copyright infringement, because I used a single screenshot of her video). Essentially, when something bad happens, he'll find a way to connect it to the exotic pet trade, which is the same situation with individuals I will discuss in the future, Jamieleigh Womach from Bird Tricks and Chrissann Nickel of the defunct Adventures in Toucanland.

It's sad to think that my posts are even necessary because Brock's contradictions are plainly obvious. However, I am currently receiving criticism for this as well, and since I don't think things will get as bad as they did with Camels, there may be little hope that Brock's followers will ever see the light.

References


  1. Blair, Jennifer. "Bumblefoot: a comparison of clinical presentation and treatment of pododermatitis in rabbits, rodents, and birds." Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice 16.3 (2013): 715-735.
  2. Cubas, Zalmir S. "Toucans: Husbandry and Medicine World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2009." Hemoglobin (g/dL) 16: 14-61.
  3. Leger, Judy St, et al. "Toucan hand feeding and nestling growth." Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice 15.2 (2012): 183-193.
  4. Seibels, B., and M. Vince. "Toucan Husbandry Manual for the AZA Piciformes TAG Association of Zoos and Aquarium." (2001).
  5. Sykes, J. M. "Piciformes (Honeyguides, Barbets, Woodpeckers, Toucans)." Fowler's Zoo Wild Anim. Med 8 (2014): 230.
  6. Shini, S., et al. "Understanding stress-induced immunosuppression: exploration of cytokine and chemokine gene profiles in chicken peripheral leukocytes." Poultry science 89.4 (2010): 841-851.
  7. Summers, Amado. "Toucans: Success in the Mountains of Northern New Mexico." AFA Watchbird 29.2: 47-55
  8. Tizard, Ian. "Salmonellosis in wild birds." Seminars in avian and exotic pet medicine. Vol. 13. No. 2. WB Saunders, 2004.

 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Brock Afentful’s (2Can TV) AMA is EYE-OPENING




Well, this might come as a surprise, but I was actually wrong about Brock of 2CanTV, the guy who thinks you should help pay for his new house in Texas because he purchased some toucans for his own pleasure. In the previous article, I stated that his first toucan was a Toco toucan named Ripley. It turns out that was wrong, consider this my retraction. 

However, the information I just by sheer coincidence happened to stumble on while searching ‘pet toucan’ (why does the Google algorithm love this guy so much?) is perhaps even more damning.
 

Brock’s first toucan was a collard aracari, a much smaller species. Unsurprisingly, he has been showing off toucans for attention and getting praised for it a lot longer than I realized. Here is his AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit, posted 9 years ago. Interestingly, he seems to have deleted his account there, and I am unaware if he shared information about this bird before, as I haven’t (and certainly won’t) watch every one of his videos.
 

Here are pictures of the bird in question.
 

As you can see, Brock is actively promoting toucans as pets and there’s a shocking reason why, which I’ll get to in a second. Here are some very interesting highlights from the comments that young Brock, who now claims toucans and other exotic animals shouldn’t be kept as pets, has made:

  • “Hardly any [noise], actually. They are MUCH quieter than any parrot. They make a purring sound when content and an almost velociraptor like call when communicating otherwise. Not to mention they don't bite the way parrots do. Their bills are actually fairly weak.”
     
  • “They aren't demanding or moody as parrots are.”
     
  • “I had a sugar glider too a few years back” (Gasp, yet another exotic pet!)


Where is Zoey?


Brock has made a nasty habit of feeding his toucans garbage like froot loops for no logical reason which I have pointed out in my previous post, and he continues to do so to this day, even though he is clearly aware he shouldn’t:
 

“Q: Do you feed him fruit loops? A: I have fed her a couple before, but its not recommended. They need a strict low iron diet. Believe it or not, they love starchy foods like spaghetti more than anything.”
 

Spaghetti? Why? Is it really that hard to just feed the dang birds fruit and pellets? So the question I have now is, where is this bird? It seems like Brock got this bird about 10 years ago, as you can see in this video he posted of Zoey, who appears to be a fledgling. In the video, she has an infected foot (perhaps bumblefoot, a disease animals tend to get from bacteria-laden conditions), and he posted the video to ask “toucan experts” for help. Brock got his toco toucan, Ripley, about 6 years ago. 




 

This means Zoey ‘disappeared’ around 3-5 years of age. Was she given away or sold, did she escape (Brock proudly states he took her outdoors on his shoulder even though she was fully flighted, BAD idea) or did she die prematurely?
 




If so, Brock’s husbandry has resulted in the early deaths of two toucans, not one, and upon losing this aracari, he 'upgraded' to a larger, more expensive bird, which died around 6 years of age. So after that, Brock upgraded again, and invested at least $8000 on another, rarer, toucan, and purchased two other “rescue” toucans with his fan’s money soon after, the same people who he is asking to buy him a new house so he can obtain even more toucans, while also getting donations for their veterinary care. So now he has one of each species. It all comes to a circle when you learn this next fact…
 

Brock Wanted to BREED TOUCANS?


You’ve read that correctly! As though there wasn’t enough evidence that Brock is just a collector, not a noble and benevolent bird “rescuer” who deserves your donations, this statement he made really brings it home:
“I plan on going to school for zoology/ ornithology after I am done with my Network Security degree. Animals are one of my passions, ESPECIALLY birds. I can assure anybody with doubts that i have the upmost respect and care for these animals, and plan on breeding them as a side job in the next 5 years.”
Here it is in plain English; Brock had plans to breed toucans, as pets, for profit, the ultimate sin in Pettube Land (it is unclear if he went and got that science education.) This is the same dude who is now claiming that they shouldn’t be pets (but they’re here, so he might as well buy them…that makes PERFECT sense) so he could play up to the irrational emotions of people who need to hear people say this so they can feel better about enjoying content from an exotic pet owner. 

Said exotic pet owner needs to be self-hating and ‘parrot out’ animal rights rhetoric in order to be accepted and praised. It absolutely makes no sense, but it clearly works well for him.
 

I have so many questions. Was Ripley going to be a breeder? Did Brock just run out of funds to get her a mate? Did he just find a new way to make money off of his birds (okay, I know the answer to this one). Why doesn’t he (as far as I know)  talk about Zoey on his Instagram, Youtube or Facebook (I did find one photo of her, but no explanation)? Is Brock now achieving his goals in the very most Carole Baskin-esque fashion as possible? I was so right about him, it’s almost scary.
 

After reading his comments, I started to see why perhaps Brock presumably hasn’t made mention of this little reddit post and the associated account is deleted on the archived thread. Here’s another interesting comment he made:
 

“Q: Have you/do you now plan to use Zoey to pick up chicks?”
Brock: “She's been picking up chicks for me ever since I got her. I showed that bitch an exotic animal. bitches love exotic animals.”
 

Reference to a meme…or hidden truth?

Friday, April 24, 2020

Brock Afentul (2CAN TV) Hypocrisy and Questionable Husbandry




Last year I described an apparent mental failing I termed The Parrot Paradox. In short, this is people's tendency to see a pet that is uncommon and unusually owned and perceive that animal as difficult to care for (or jump to the conclusion that it doesn't belong in captivity) often without even knowing anything about that animal. This is a consistent occurrence with parrots (common) vs. toucans (uncommon) and the belief that the latter requires specialized care or should only be in zoos, even when parrots are considered to be high-maintenance pets [5].

To expand upon this cognitive bias, I would like to introduce you to the "Three Can'ts" (because they all say you can't care for a toucan properly, so to speak). These are three individuals who post a lot of online content about their pet toucans, therefore, their information is favored by Google and Youtube algorithms. All three have the following in common: They've owned toucans as pets, they all believe toucans shouldn't be pets, and they are all relatively young, have no education in the sciences, and had their first toucan(s) for 6 years and under before giving them up or having them prematurely die (generally longevity in captivity is 21 years [25]).

They are Brock Afentful of 2CAN TV, Jamieleigh Womach of Bird Tricks, and Chrissann Nickel of the blog Adventures in Toucanland.

I will discuss the other two in more detail in future posts, but while Womach and Nickel impulsively purchased their toucans, Brock may be the least qualified to be making public statements on the suitability of toucans as pets for many reasons.

To start, this is the video that inspired this post:



In this video, Afentful makes some comments that show an appalling lack of self-awareness and obvious hypocrisy which is evident from the title alone (Tiger King, Exploiting Animals for Fame, & Why Toucans Shouldn't be Bets!(Rant).



He also says: "I don't believe toucans, or any exotic animals, should be pets. But they are here to stay and we can't change that now. The best thing we can do is make sure they get to qualified people or facilities that give them the best lives possible." and on another video "I do NOT recommend or endorse Toucan's as pets."

These comments sound insane, considering that Afentful:
  • Spent $10,000 to $12,000 on his first toucan, Ripely, from a breeder.  
  • When Ripely passed, he got his followers to help him buy a new one (and send the original's body to an unspecified museum), for a similar price.
  • He also got his followers to help pay for 2 more toucans soon after, under the guise that they were being "rescued". 
  • He (obviously) puts up content that makes owning toucans look appealing (because they are), for revenue. 
  • He literately says that his channel is responsible for 75% of his income and asks his followers to help pay for his new house ("we're trying to move to a new facility" from the video "Toucans Bite and it is Not Fun").

Therefore, Brock Afentful is, by every definition, exploiting his birds, as they help pay his bills, and yes, his earnings also pay for the care of the birds, which is also to his benefit, because they are his desired, extremely expensive, luxury pets. One only needs to glance beneath the "rant" video in question, where he is ironically begging for donations and selling products depicting his pets.


Brock Afentful Questionable Husbandry


Why is Afentful asking for donations? The fact remains, either he can afford the care of his birds that he asked his supporters to help him buy and simply would rather have someone else do it, or he can't afford their care yet "rescued" two toucans after he spent what would be more than a month's income for much of America's population on the first toucan.

Furthermore, his house is filled with what appears to be expensive mainstream film memorabilia, including this model of a Jurassic Park T-rex that retails for over $500 in the U.S. at the time of its release.

This is important, as Afentful presents his channel as an educational resource and perhaps even a toucan "rescue". It should be noted that there are real bird rescues that utilize their limited resources to help as many lower value birds as possible, while Afentful is collecting money for three valuable (even if they are sick) animals that he owns completely for pleasure (his words: “I can’t imagine living my life without a toucan”) when he supposedly thinks that is wrong. He even claims that he does this "for a living".

 

Small Cages?


Ironically, by the standards of most toucan keepers, Brock Afentful's enclosures are way too small for large toucans, including one of the most well-known breeders, Emerald Forest, and even they don't believe toucans shouldn't be pets. Most owners of large toucans believe they should ideally be housed in walk-in avaries. Here are cage specifications from three resources:

Emerald Forest: 12 feet by 24 feet by 8 feet [4]
AZA:  2 feet wide by 6 feet long by 6 feet high (this is only a quarantine cage for short periods) [17]
Summers, Amando: "Large Toucans need the largest Macaw-size cage you can find, or better, walk-in aviaries" [21].

This was Ripley, his first toucan's cage, this is Toupac's cage, and this is the cage for the 2 new birds he "rescued" (at 14:00), which appears to be the same model (or is it the same cage?) of Toupac's double macaw-sized cage (possibly 80"x40"x61" interior), but split in half to accommodate the two birds (it is unclear if this housing situation is permanent, and if it is, this is a very stressful situation as the two birds do not get along and have no means of hiding from each other's view).
However, he claims 2 of the birds are rarely in the cage.


But there's a few problems with this.

  • Toucans defecate, on average I would say, every 5-10 minutes, constantly, all day. As they do not have a crop like parrots [4][6], they eat throughout all their waking hours and poop on a consistent basis [1][22]. They can even sometimes eliminate food they've eaten 15 minutes ago [6]. This means that if he is telling the truth, then even with daily frequent cleaning, his house is filthy and gross and possibly infested with fruit flies/ants/other bugs [22], especially since he lives in the South (personal experience owning a toucan). That is simply not sanitary.
  • He is forcing his toucans to sleep outside of their preferred sleeping quarters, a nesting cavity [16][17][22][25], none of which are present inside or out of the cages.
  • It is completely unsafe to allow toucans to free-roam the house without constant supervision, and I mean constant. Simply being 'around' or within the same space isn't enough. They can injure themselves, and far more commonly, ingest small objects and die [4][11][22]. His house appears to be a normal house, not an emptied-out specially designed-for-birds living space. 
  • His house contains a small number of perches and perch-able surfaces. While it might sound appealing that the birds get to "free roam", they naturally prefer to spend little time on the ground [17]. This means the space that is available to them, besides the floor, is not so large. 
  • It is recommended that the larger toucans are kept outdoors with natural sunlight for optimal health [17]. 
  • If Afentful wants us to believe these toucans are so well-behaved that they remain still on certain perches and are perfectly content, he has successfully made the argument that they are excellent pets. Otherwise, this housing situation is not adequate.
  • Furthermore, if he doesn't believe in caging the birds for long periods, it begs the question, why did he raise money to buy two more "rescue" toucans that may or may not get along with his first toucan within the household or properly adjust to this precarious free-roaming situation that he is dependent on? As he states he "tries to give them as much of a cage-free life as they can possibly have", he sounds like he feels entitled to have the birds even though he does not have the proper enclosure(s) and requires them to be extremely tame and well-behaved (in direct contradiction to them being "bad pets") in order to live well in his home. Furthermore, he claims Beatrix cannot be out as often due to "behavior issues", but these "issues" (aggression, territoriality, flying into walls, ect.) are in fact NORMAL and EXPECTED toucan behaviors [4][15][16] (especially when they are parent-raised [1]) .
  • Afentful could have pursued buying or "rescuing" less expensive aracaries or toucanets that are the appropriate size for his situation, as I did, but he choose to purchase large toucans for his own desires. 
This was Beatrix's quarantine area with papers that were "just changed", to give some perspective on the amount that toucans eliminate. Image used under Fair Use.

 

Feeding Toucans Junk for Views


None of Brock Afentful's followers seem to make anything of the fact that he at least once has fed all of his toucans fried chick-fil-a nuggets and Froot Loops. He does this possibly to amuse people, not for "education" and certainly not for the benefit of the birds. While Afentful often states to his followers that toucans like to eat meat, they rarely do this except when raising chicks [3][13][14][20][22][24][25].

The diet should be as low in iron as possible [4][7][10][11][22]. Animal protein is high in iron [18] and toucan owners know to avoid meat entirely if they aren't breeding [7][8][10][19][22][24]. However, the Chick-fil-a nuggets are not just meat, but fried and cooked with various spices of unknown suitability for birds. Foot loops are extremely high in sugar, even for humans. Feeding these foods one time (if it was only one time) might not be harmful, but why take the risk with delicate animals like toucans just to get views? This is not only "exploitation", but potentially harmful exploitation.

Furthermore, Afentful's first toucan was fed cooked turkey shortly before her death at 6 years old. Her cause of death was cryptically described as "heart failure" or a "dormant heart issue", which he tries to imply was a genetic issue. Toucans are prone to cardivascular problems, and one cause is a high-fat diet and obesity [2].

Lying about Toucans being Injurious


Part of Afentful's spiel about toucans making bad pets involved him making a click bait thumbnail about toucans biting and inserting fake blood splatter on top of the image. He seems to rather enjoy presenting toucans as 'raptor-like' perhaps to make himself feel like a daring animal wrangler.

Actually, toucans may have the least injurious bite of any comparably-sized warm-blooded animal that you can possibly own. Their beaks are very lightweight [23]. After prompting his toucan who has "behavior problems" to bite him, he sustained a superficial red spot on his finger, which proves this. Parrots, on the other hand, can break your fingers [9], but I haven't heard him suggest parrots are bad pets. This is just another great example of the aforementioned paradox. Not many pet owners would induce a bite from an animal that could cause significant harm. If I prompted some of the animals I own to bite me, I would easily end up in the hospital.

 

Toucan Behavioral Issues?


Afentful suggests Beatrix, the keel-billed toucan, has "behavior problems" and is "not pet quality" despite the fact that she is an adult bird in a new environment being forcibly housed closely to other strange toucans of different species, which is not recommended [4]. I believe her behavior is completely normal and expected, which only further proves my point: Afentful seems to have expectations of birds behaving like tame dogs and when they do not, he considers them to be bad pets. This is entirely the root of exotic pet criticism, i.e. comparison syndrome. People who have incorrect perceptions of animals will label them incorrectly. The fact that his other "rescue" toucan is behaving so well (even before his supposed ample time working with them) is great evidence they make excellent pets for the right owners.

The Bottom Line


Brock Afentful frequently states throughout his Youtube channel that he doesn't believe toucans (and other exotic animals) should be pets while he purchases the birds, actively supporting the trade and making money from showing them of. Therefore they are not rescues, they are assets. While suggesting that only a limited number of people, himself included, have what it takes to care for toucans, his husbandry is questionable and does not follow the recommendations of leading toucan breeders. Afentful appears to make up his own rules regarding not just toucan care, but who is qualified to own them and nonsensical logic that permits him to "rescue" and even purchase toucans while simultaneously siding with animal rights activists so that he can get praised by pro and anti-exotic pet minded supporters, reaping every benefit.

*If any of the information presented here is factually incorrect, please let me know with sources provided.



References

  1. Axelson, Rick. Toucans and Toucanettes - General. Care & Wellness, Pet Services. 2009.
  2. Cubas, Zalmir S. "Toucans: Husbandry and Medicine World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2009." Hemoglobin (g/dL) 16: 14-61.
  3. dos Santos, Alessandra Aparecida, and José Ragusa-Netto. "Toco-toucan (Ramphastos toco) feeding habits at an urban area in Central Brazil." Ornitología Neotropical 24 (2013): 1-13.
  4. Emerald Forest Bird Gardens. Care Information.
  5. Engebretson, M. "The welfare and suitability of parrots as companion animals: a review." ANIMAL WELFARE-POTTERS BAR THEN WHEATHAMPSTEAD- 15.3 (2006): 263.
  6. Hess, Laurie. Axelson, Rick. "Toucans and Toucanettes - Feeding". Care & Wellness, Nutrition, Pet Services
  7. Jennings, Jerry. Toucans & Their Captive Reproduction.
  8. Johnson, Sibylle. Natural and Captive Diet of Toucans / Toucanets and Aracaris.
  9. King, I. C. C., H. Freeman, and J. E. Wokes. "Managing parrot bite injuries to the hand: not just another animal bite." Hand 10.1 (2015): 128-130.
  10. Mazuri. Mazuri® ZuLiFe® Soft-Bill Diet for Iron Sensitive Birds.
  11. Máinez, Mireia, et al. "Traumatic (foreign body) pericarditis in a Toco Toucan (Ramphastos Toco)." Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 47.4 (2016): 1097-1100.
  12. Otten, Benjamin A., et al. "Mineral content of food items commonly ingested by keel-billed toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus)." Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery 15.3 (2001): 194-196.
  13. Ragusa-Netto, José. "Abundance and frugivory of the toco toucan (Ramphastos toco) in a gallery forest in Brazil's Southern Pantanal." Brazilian Journal of Biology 66.1A (2006): 133-142.
  14. Ragusa-Netto, José. "Toco toucan feeding ecology and local abundance in a habitat mosaic in the Brazilian cerrado." Ornitologia Neotropical 19 (2008): 345-359.
  15. Reynolds M. 2017. Toco Toucan: species fact sheet. Silver Spring (MD): Avian Scientific Advisory Group. [accessed 2020 April 16th]. http://aviansag.org/Fact_Sheets/Piciformes/Toco_Toucan.pdf.
  16. Ritchie, Branson W., Greg J. Harrison, and Linda R. Harrison. Avian medicine: principles and application. HBD International, Incorporated, 1994.
  17. Seibels, B., and M. Vince. "Toucan Husbandry Manual for the AZA Piciformes TAG." Association of Zoos and Aquariums (2001).
  18. Sheppard, Christine, and Ellen Dierenfeld. "Iron storage disease in birds: speculation on etiology and implications for captive husbandry." Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery 16.3 (2002): 192-197.
  19. Silva, Juliana Macedo Magnino, et al. "Development of young toco toucas fed with dry dog food and toucan pellets." Revista Brasileira de Saude e Producao Animal 12.3 (2011): 739-749.
  20. Silva, Paulo Antonio. "FLOWER EATING BY THE TOCO TOUCAN (RAMPHASTOS TOCO) IN AN ANTHROPOGENIC LANDSCAPE DURING THE DRY SEASON." Ornitología Neotropical 30 (2019): 51-55.
  21. Summers, Amado. Toucan Frequently Asked Questions. Summerbirds.com
  22. Toucans... My Experiences with their Care and Breeding
  23. Worell, Amy B. "Ramphastids." Handbook of Avian Medicine. WB Saunders, 2009. 335-349.
  24. Verschoor, T. "Talking ToucansZooQuaria 90 (2015): 16-17.
  25. Vincent, Mairee. "The Preliminary Studies of Wild Toco Toucans (Ramphastos toco)-a keeper's experience in the field." Ratel 34.3 (2007): 8.







Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Adrienne Kruzer (Spruce Pets) Copies People's Articles

Adrienne Kruzer RVT, LVT, who is currently a "Senior Veterinary Product Technical Specialist" in Lancaster, South Carolina, who writes for the Spruce Pets and various other websites, claims to be an expert in "domestic and exotic animal care", however it is apparent that she just re-writes other people's articles, including some of my own, to create a large quantity of inferior content solely for revenue.

Here is an example of a section from an article that is almost entirely taken from one of my well-researched articles on pet foxes:

Adrienne Kruzer: The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is very similar to the red fox but is typically smaller and not as commonly kept as a pet. An animal that has adapted to life in the Arctic, it is sensitive to hot temperatures and may overheat easier than other foxes. Measures to keep it cool may be necessary. Due to a small breeding stock in the U.S., Arctic foxes are overbred and some possess genetic problems.
 Like red foxes, its urine and scenting glands make it a smelly choice for a pet. It is not well suited to life indoors since it scent marks its territory. It also loves to play in sand and dirt and may make their litter box more of a pleasure sandbox than a bathroom spot. As far as foxes go, it can have a pleasant disposition.

From my article (which includes references):  Availability: Regular availability but less common and more expensive than red foxes.

Size: 28 inches long without the tail, and 6 to 10 pounds [2].

Relative Care Level: As the name might suggest, this species can be sensitive to hot temperatures and overheat. Measures must be taken to keep them cool in unsuitable climates. Being a 'true fox', special smelly scent glands can make them poor indoor pets, although other owners report that they have no smell [24]. Due to a small breeding stock in the U.S., arctic foxes are over-bred and some possess genetic problems [13].

Arctic foxes can have a pleasant temperament (for a fox), some learn to use their litter box 'most' of the time, and they have very smelly urine. They love to play in sand or dirt and they may mark their territory with urine or feces [10].
Cost: $200-700 for captive-bred animal.

Not only is this frustrating for writers like myself, who spend a lot of time scouring scholarly sources, pet owner forums, and using our long term interest in the subjects that we write about to aid in the development of unique online articles that provide quality material for readers, but this is also important considering Kruzer is one of many online writers with "expertise" that spread misinformation about exotic pets, claiming they make "bad pets" based on their obvious ignorance.

For instance, here is Kruzer's article on why owls make bad pets. It is clear that she has inadequately researched this topic as the information provided is extremely shallow. When describing the enclosure an owl needs, she describes it as a "substantial aviary setting" that must be made out of "sturdy wire". This is just generic information from someone who's done the most minimal amount of Googling. Here is one of my articles about pet owls with much more specific information on owl housing:
"Owls and other birds of prey are kept in what’s called a mew. These are essentially completely enclosed, large, outdoor, wooden enclosures. The sides should be composed of slats that allow in some light and air but are not too far spaced apart as to cause discomfort to the animal and potentially be accessible to outdoor animals."
It is clear that she doesn't even own exotic pets except for "two rescued leopard geckos" and her experience likely involves having been in the same room with exotic animals occasionally as a vet tech, if her content is any indication. Her lack of "expertise" is apparent to anyone who is passionate about exotic pets in captivity. Kruzer's Linkedin describes her writing:




I contacted Kruzer privately on Facebook about this issue in a respectful manner weeks ago and was just immediately blocked. I also contacted the "multi-award winning website", The Spruce, twice and was completely ignored.  This website, which was launched by About.com, claims they have the best experts in their topics and are conflict-free:

"The Spruce brand is one of the top 10 largest lifestyle properties online according to comScore, a leading Internet measurement company. Our 45+ expert writers, including professional contractors, landscapers, chefs, cookbook authors, registered vet technicians, and well known crafting bloggers, have extensive backgrounds and expertise in their topics."
  
"Our Writers
All of our writers were carefully chosen for their extensive experience in their subject areas."

"At The Spruce, we take great pride in the quality of our content. Our writers create original, accurate, engaging content that is free of ethical concerns or conflicts. If you ever come across an article that you think needs to be improved, please reach out by emailing contact@thespruce.com."

This illustrates why it is so important to ignore content farms like The Spruce Pets and authors like Adrienne Kruzer who have the gall to tell people an animal makes a bad pet or shouldn't be a pet when they are not properly educated on the topic and are mostly writing such to gain traffic and revenue.