Friday, April 30, 2010

The story of an owl who doesn't act like one.

For a Tawny Owl with a yardwide wingspan, the sky should be the limit.
But Troy prefers his bird's eye view to be no higher than 5ft 10in. The one-year-old has an inconvenient phobia: he's terrified of heights.

After an unfortunate start in life when he fell from his nest, Troy was raised in captivity by handler Gareth Tonen, who just happens to be 5ft 10in tall.

As a result, Troy has grown up without any lofty aspirations of his own. When it comes to trees, he can't see what all the fuss is about and would much prefer to cruise along at Mr Tonen's side.

Only when the 25-year-old handler shins up a tree, can Troy be tempted to leave his comfort zone and join him.

Troy's apparent fear of heights was a result of forgetting how to be a bird. He's been in captivity for as long as he can remember and has never been higher than his handler can lift him. He sees himself as more of a human than an owl, he doesn't know how to sit in trees or hunt.

Most of the time he will then fly down again, but occasionally Mr Tonen will have to carry him back to ground level.

Mr Tonen said: 'I don't think he even knows he's an owl - he thinks he's a Gareth. He sees himself as a small person rather than an owl. He now looks upon me as his mum and dad rolled into one.

'We'll get there. He's gaining more confidence and if I have to carry on climbing up trees with him then we'll do what it takes for him to be a high flyer.'

'Gareth has to almost act like an owl to get Troy to behave like one.' As a result, a daily tree climb has become part of Troy's - and Mr Tonen's - routine.

Ladders have been fixed so Mr Tonen can scramble into the trees and call for Troy, who will fly up and join his handler - but go no higher.

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