When you think of cuddly animals, no doubt the obvious fluffy ones spring to mind. But prepare to have your world turned upside-down. Yes, you might not think it, but toucans can be really affectionate. This one, for example, has been winning the internet with her un-bird-like antics.
Ripley is a big-billed toco toucan beauty who lives with Brock and Lena Miculek Afentul in Louisiana. It turns out that Brock had always been a fan of toucans. So when the couple decided they wanted a pet, it was a no-brainer that this was the bird they would get.
“We got Ripley from a zoo about a year and a half ago when she was around three months old,” Brock told Mashable in early 2016. It wasn’t an instant thing, though. “We got in contact with the breeder and had to wait until she had hatched and was able to eat on her own.”
When she was old enough, Ripley flew by plane to the United States and her new human family. “When we got her she was just a little ball of black and white fluff with a short little yellow bill. She grew up quickly,” Brock said.
In fact, it wasn’t long before the toucan’s personality started to shine through. “Unlike parrots, toucans are extremely hyperactive and very inquisitive,” Brock explained. And that was just one of the challenges of raising an intelligent tropical bird. After all, it is not a task for the unprepared.
But the benefits are tremendous. Curiously, though, it wasn’t the energetic and mischievous side of Ripley’s nature that captured internet attention. Instead, it was her relationship with her humans. Yes, this toucan loves to cuddle, and her behavior makes her look more like an affectionate dog than a tropical bird. It is, quite simply, the cutest thing.
“I can’t recall the first time she tried to snuggle up to us. It’s probably some of the only times where she actually stays still,” Brock described. “She will usually come hop in your lap, squat down and fluff up when she wants to be loved on.”
“She’ll also rub her head on us as a kind of cue that she wants somebody to pet her,” Brock added. After Ripley’s humans posted a video of their loving toucan on social media, then, the crowd went wild. One post, for example, received over 469,000 views.
Plus, questions and comments about Ripley’s antics filled the feedback section of the YouTube post. And although some users were against the idea of a toucan in captivity, most just wanted one for themselves. In fact, they couldn’t get enough of cuddly Ripley.
Yes, the channel was bombarded with cries like, “Where can I buy a toucan?” “Now I want one” and “omg my heart has dropped!!! This is sooooo adorable!! I want a Toucan!!!” Suffice to say, Ripley won over the crowd with her adorable fondness for cuddles.
But Brock’s petting of Ripley also serves a purpose besides just being nice. Between birds, or even with their owners when captive, this tactic is called allopreening, and it helps clean head feathers and lower aggression. Naturally, it also strengthens social bonds and makes for happier birds.
But Ripley has a few other tricks that make her seem more like a playful puppy than a tropical toucan. “She likes to play catch, and they actually do this naturally,” Brock said. “You can throw a blueberry or toy in the air and, if she’s not near it, she’ll take off and catch it mid-air.”
It all looks fantastic, but what’s it like raising a toucan? “Imagine having a little velociraptor with the intelligence of four year old, ADHD, that’s constantly high on crack and has the ability to fly,” Brock explained. “She always wants to figure out what things are and promptly knock it on the ground.”
Brock stressed, though, that you shouldn’t get one of these beautiful birds as a pet unless you know what to expect. To begin with, toucans are rarely found in captivity. This means that there is very little knowledge on aspects of their care beyond what works best for other bird species.
For sure, however, a tropical toucan requires a diversity of fresh fruit. And providing even one with the quality of food it needs can become very expensive. In addition, toucans play and get bored quickly with toys. Therefore, owners need to be creative or shell out a lot of cash for new toys regularly.
Brock further explained that they “require a lot of space, attention and love.” And, thankfully, Ripley’s humans have the right lifestyle to provide her all of those things. “My wife and I are both self-employed and travel about 180 days of the year. Ripley usually travels with us or I will stay home with her,” he told Mashable.
“She also enjoys sun bathing. When the sun isn’t out she will go fluff up on a lamp and warm her butt on it,” he added. As adorable as Ripley is, however, toucans are not recommended as a pet.
“When people get to know her, they fall in love with her even more. But with that being said, toucans aren’t for everyone,” Brock warned. This claim is backed up by blogger Chrissann, also known as “The Toucan Lady,” who cares for three of them. On her website, Adventures in Toucan Land, Chrissann wrote that looking after her birds is a lot harder than it seems.
“Unfortunately, I have seen toucan breeders all too frequently glaze over the realistic details of toucan ownership in an attempt to sell birds by making it seem much easier/simpler/cheaper than it actually is,” Chrissann wrote. “This sets both the toucans and potential owners up for failure. A sad reality I have witnessed myself several times.”
“Toucans are not like having a dog, yet all of your friends will compare your experience to that, as that is all many of them have experienced firsthand,” Chrissann continued. As adorable as they are, then, toucans are exotic animals. If you insist on getting one, just make sure that you can responsibly look after them first.