Ever wondered what it would be like to have a pet toucan?
Apparently, it’s not as easy as owning a budgie, as Janelle Tsao, 35, found after she adopted Touki two years ago.
Since then, Touki has become a TikTok sensation, amassing some 600,000 followers on his @ToukiTheToucan account.
The exotic bird has separation anxiety, meaning Janelle, from Los Angeles, hasn’t been on a single holiday since and can’t leave the house without asking another adult to supervise her ‘flying two-year-old.’
‘It’s a lot to ask,’ she said.
Because toucans are monogamous and only bond with one human or animal at a time, Touki will ‘croak call or screech loudly’ if one of his owners leaves the room, right up until one or both of them return.
‘It can be very annoying, like a screaming parrot,’ Janelle says.
‘It’s like having a child, he’s beautiful, intuitive and always curious.
‘These birds are like flying toddlers or monkeys – they will get into everything.
‘Yesterday, I was chopping tomatoes and placed them in a bowl with a lid, which he isn’t allowed to have, they’re too acidic.
‘He flies down to the counter and lifted the lid and stole a tomato, then he flew up to the second floor of our loft and quickly swallowed it before I could even start climbing!’
It’s not just his temperament that makes Touki a handful: his diet consists of fresh and exotic fruits like sweet potatoes, lychee, palm dates and blueberries, costing Janelle and her girlfriend Arielle Zarutsky, 40, $80 (£59) per month.
And what comes next? Poop.
Toucans go to the toilet every five to ten minutes – and it usually happens during Touki’s 75 laps around the house, and it can be ‘any colour of the rainbow,’ according to Janelle.
‘We plasticise all of our couches, clean up any poops that don’t make the designated liners,’ she says. ‘Caretaking for a toucan is high maintenance!’
However, while Janelle and Arielle ‘wouldn’t recommend’ a toucan as a house pet, they feel grateful to have Touki in their lives.
They spotted him at a breeder in July 2019 and fell in love.
‘Our hearts just melted,’ Janelle said.
‘He was very quiet and I guess shy in the cage.
‘I think it’s because he was injured and he had scab like things in his feathers.
‘I made the commitment right there, that I would do whatever it took to love and care for him.
‘It was always a dream of mine to care for a toucan.’
And while some animal rights activists believe the exotic bird shouldn’t be kept as a pet, Janelle says they don’t realise that Touki was raised by humans.
‘We do not keep him as our pet, rather, he keeps US as his!’ She said.
‘I love him deeply and don’t see my life without him.
‘It is a joy and fortune to have such a majestic animal respond and connect with human interaction.’
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