Zoo's oldest resident retires at 76

Cookie the cockatoo arrived in 1934

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By CHRIS STACH

Web Extra!

Cookie the Cockatoo, the oldest living resident of the Brookfield Zoo and the only animal left of the zoo's original collection, has retired at age 76.

Sent from Australia's Taronga Zoo in 1934, cookie was judged to be a year old when he first saw Brookfield Zoo. Seven decades later, Cookie suffers from the usual problems of age, like human beings do, in several ways.

He has osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and is on a calcium-rich diet. Besides taking anti-inflammatory medication, he also gets vitamin supplements. Ultraviolet lighting, for example, supplies his bones with vitamin D.

Tim Snyder, curator of birds, indicated that "Cookie's as healthy as a 76-year-old cockatoo can be. His health is the same as you would see in an old animal, or in an older human, too."

Curators have noticed that with his advancing age, Cookie's getting crotchety and prefers familiar faces. Snyder also revealed that Cookie likes the female keepers more than the male ones. Apparently he still has an eye for the ladies.

"He focuses on his favorite people," said Snyder. "Over the years, many of Cookie's visitors have tried to get his attention by saying his name over and over."

Visitors used to bring him little toys, and he even gets fan mail from his "groupies."

Now that he is no longer out on weekends, where is he spending his retirement years? "He's in the Perching Bird House, in the keeper's office," said Snyder.

There is some good news. Unless his health or disposition worsens, the zoo may put him back out on exhibit next year, during warmer months and for his birthday, which is celebrated by zoo staff annually on the last weekend of June.

At that time, his usual diet of chopped fruits and vegetables, parrot pellets, feed mixture, chopped leafy greens, spinach, kale and romaine lettuce (no dressing) is livened up by his birthday cupcake, baked only for him. The "candle" on top is a green bean, and he loves green beans.

As for the rest of the cupcake, it is made of Cookie's favorite foods, such as apples, carrots, raisins and bananas.

Actually, even on normal days, he has quite a wide selection of foods to choose from: peanuts, sunflower seeds and corn on the cob.

Keepers watch Cookie pretty closely. After all, he is still a member of an endangered species, protected under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). In 1994, Cookie was one of only 70 Leadbeater's (also known as the Major Mitchell) cockatoos in zoos around the world. Today he is one out of 157 in zoos worldwide.

Over the years, Cookie, the pink cockatoo with the bright eyes, has seen, literally, millions of people.

The question is, will he temporarily come out of retirement next year to warm his old bones and fluff his feathers for his human friends? Like some at the zoo say, "What Cookie Wants, Cookie Gets!"

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