King Tut, the Zoo's official greeter for almost 40 years (from 1951 to 1989), was a salmon-crested, or Moluccan, cockatoo. A bronze statue of him was placed in his favorite perching spot near the Zoo’s flamingo exhibit!
Today, the San Diego Zoo is home to seven cockatoo species; the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to three species. Some serve as animal ambassadors in shows and in close-up animal presentations to Zoo and Safari Park guests. They also make appearances at nursing homes and on television.
Cockatoos are admired for their intelligence, but being smart can sometimes get them into trouble. They learn quickly to take handouts from humans and love to raid bird feeders. If their food sources dry up, they can and will destroy wood decking and paneling on houses. They became popular pets in the 1970s, due in part to a triton cockatoo Cacatua galerita triton having a role in the TV show Baretta, which led to a sudden and dramatic decrease in their numbers in the wild. In fact, certain species of Indonesian cockatoos are thought to be extinct in the wild because of trapping for the pet trade. The Philippine cockatoo Cacatua haematuropygia and lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo Cacatua suphurea are at critical risk.
You can help us bring cockatoo species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.