A New Home for Ruby and Aristophanes

By Stephanie Herman, Wildlife Care Center Manager and Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director

We have both exciting and hard news to share with you regarding our two beloved Ambassador Animals, Aristophanes the Raven and Ruby the Turkey Vulture. In early January both birds will be moving to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma Washington. We wanted to share this news now to ensure people can come up to the sanctuary to see the birds before they move. We know that this news will bring mixed emotions for many people, especially the staff and volunteers who have worked with and cared for these birds for so many years, and also the many visitors to our sanctuary and school kids who got to meet Ruby and Ari up close. They have both been an important part of the Bird Alliance of Oregon family for a long time.

Two separate photos side by side, the one on the left of Ruby preening her feathers and the one on the right a portrait of Aristophanes.
Photo of Ruby by Kiana Rose, photo of Aristophanes by Tara Lemezis

We do not make this decision lightly. As we shared with the community back in November, we began a search for a new home for Ari and Ruby this fall after recognizing that the opportunities we can provide these birds will be limited over the next few years as we invest in the search and design for our new Wildlife Care Center and rebuild our Ambassador Animal program after the impacts of COVID. After a great deal of thought, we feel it is in the best interests of these complex birds to move to a facility with greater resources. You can read more about this decision in our initial announcement here.

Our commitment was to find a facility that could devote significantly more resources to Ari and Ruby than would be available at Bird Alliance of Oregon. We feel that we have found that at the Point Defiance Zoo.The full-time staff who will be dedicated to Ari and Ruby have decades of experience in avian care and training, and the free flight educational programs Ari and Ruby will participate in reach thousands of people every year. Ari and Ruby will both have the opportunity to truly stretch their wings and fly in a 100ft exercise yard and will have an entire team dedicated to providing them with tailor-made enrichment. Point Defiance Zoo has a track record of dedication to animal welfare and is on the cutting edge of avian training, with a focus on ensuring their feathered team mates are as enthusiastic about their programs as the public who learns from them.

“We’re excited to welcome Aristophanes and Ruby to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium,” said staff biologist Jessie Sutherland. “Our animal ambassadors serve a vital role in inspiring empathy and conservation action among our zoo guests. We use positive reinforcement to encourage birds in our care to demonstrate natural behaviors, such as foraging, tool use and soaring in our large flight yard. These engaging presentations, combined with our award-winning enrichment program and excellent veterinary and animal care, will allow Ruby and Ari to lead vibrant, full lives just a short drive from their original homes.”

While we are sad to see them go, and will miss them very much, we look forward to seeing these birds continue to flourish in this world class facility, and we’re so glad to have found a facility close to home, where hopefully many of those who love Ari and Ruby will still have the opportunity to visit.

We want everyone to have the opportunity to visit and say goodbye to Ari and Ruby, who have been such an important part of our community for more than a decade. You can visit them in their exhibits along the main sanctuary trail until January 2, 2023, after which they’ll travel up to Tacoma. Once at Point Defiance Zoo, they’ll start their time behind-the-scenes as they quarantine and settle into their new home. When they’re ready, you’ll be able to spot them alongside the rest of the Point Defiance team helping to teach visitors about their amazing species, the threats they face, and how we can each act to protect them and the rest of our natural world.

We want to thank all the amazing staff and volunteers who have cared for Ruby and Ari over the past decade. We also want to take a moment to thank and celebrate the lives these birds have changed! If you have stories or memories about Aristophanes and Ruby that you’d like to share, email us at wildlife@birdallianceoregon.org and we’ll share as many as we can on our blog.