How do you turn a pelican into a movie star? That was the challenge facing biologist Dr Greg Johnston, who was tasked with raising not one, but 12 chicks to perform in the remake of the beloved Australian film Storm Boy. We join him at Adelaide Zoo as he reconnects with two of his of his star pupils, and find out how he helped make these extraordinary waterbirds fit the bill!
From the feathered free-for-all here, you wouldn’t guess that two of this rabble are trained thespians. Amongst this pack somewhere are our two stars, Salty and Skye.
A specialist animal trainer taught the chicks to perform like pros – including some pretty complicated behaviour. Like a stroll down the main drag of Port Elliot…and a scratch match that’ll have the Socceroo talent scouts excited… well, maybe!
But Greg cautions that in real life, interactions with humans don’t often end well. “So if a pelican gets fed a fish by you on the beach, that seems great you’ve had a great interaction with the animal – the pelicans got a feed, but if that happens 40 times a day for the same pelican, the pelican will often learn to actually grab fish off of hooks as fisher people bring them in and we have a lot of pelicans that actually get hooked up and tangled in hooks.”
Greg’s full of incredible pelican points of interest – Did you know they’ve got the biggest beak in the bird world and may fly up for 400k’s a day on the lunch run?!
Greg: “To me, they’ve got interesting biology about themselves, they’re like a canary in the coal mine and we can use these to tell us how our environment is going. If the Pelicans are doing well, then we’re treating the environment well”.
So next time you’re visiting Adelaide Zoo make sure you pop in and say g’day to these amazing Pelicans – they really are stars of the animal world and are loving their time in the spotlight!