Old cockatoo Peanut – what a war veteran

Sam Prescott with one of his patients, in this case an injured swan.
Sam Prescott with one of his patients, in this case an injured swan.

Frequently our vets will be asked to give talks to cubs, brownies or primary school children.

Having done a number of these, you start to notice a pattern in the question session. When asked if there are any questions, 20 eager hands will shoot up, but the children develop immediate stage-fright and say nothing.

We all have tales of the hen that survived the fox, or the budgie that lived through an altercation with a cat, but Peanut went one better — he survived the Second World War.

Asking if anyone has a pet is fraught with danger — “I did have a hamster, but you killed him.”

As their confidence grows, you are asked: “Have you ever been bitten by a dog? (Yes). “A cat?” (Yes). “A horse, cow, snake, ferret, vole, lizard, fish?” (Yes to all). ”What’s the heaviest animal you’ve treated?” (30-tonne fin whale). “The most dangerous?” (Tricky — is it a bull, a stallion, a 20ft python, or a cantankerous corgi?).

One of the most challenging questions is “what is the oldest animal you have treated?” Whilst colleagues lay claim to a 23-year-old Jack Russell, a 26-year-old cat or a 38-year-old pony, they are juvenile compared to the tortoises I see that have been handed down from generation to generation. The difficulty in answering is that there is a degree of ambiguity. ”We don’t know how old Shelley is, but grandpa bought him from a man on the beach in Greece 45 years ago.”

Significantly more exists regarding the age of a wonderful, sulphur crested cockatoo by the name of Peanut.

We all have tales of the hen that survived the fox, or the budgie that lived through an altercation with a cat, but Peanut went one better — he survived the Second World War, not as an observer, but as an active member of the armed forces. Peanut was the mascot of the fleet air.

Admittedly, Peanut was not flying wing-tip to wing-tip with a Hawker Sea Hurricane Fighter, or perched in the cockpit of a Fairey Barracuda bomber. No, Peanut resided in the club house, an environment that presented its own dangers. After the war, when Peanut was passed into private ownership, rather than a brilliant white, his plumage was bronze, so severe had been the cigarette smoke. Such exposure to toxins would have killed many a lesser bird, but not Peanut, who thrived until recently, finally succumbing at the grand age of 78.

Peanut was a fantastic bird, much loved and fondly remembered, and we salute him, as we do all our elderly scaled, feathered and furry companions.

By Sam Prescott, Director and Vet.