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Pink The Pelican Released After Pouch Surgery


It's a sad fact that there have been reports in Florida, North Carolina and California of people slashing the pouches of pelicans. This week a California brown pelican who was attacked in April, received successful surgery and was released back into the wild. Doctor Rebecca Duerr is a veterinarian with International Bird Rescue. She led the team that nursed the bird known as Pink, back to health. And she joins us now from the studios of KQED in San Francisco. Doctor Duerr, thanks so much for being with us.

REBECCA DUERR: Thanks very much for having me.

SIMON: What did Pink look like when you and your team met him?

DUERR: Well, he was really anemic and emaciated, cold and generally looked to be animal in very poor condition, with this, of course, giant, gaping laceration to the pouch. So obviously he'd been starving for a while.

SIMON: US Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $20,000 reward for information on who did this. Is there a lot of this crime going on or at least more than we might suspect?

DUERR: Well, there are a lot of human hazards that animals run into trying to be wild animals in our human-encroached environment. But animal cruelty cases are relatively rare in my experience. I wouldn't say that people are out there gunning for animals to hurt them, necessarily, but it certainly does happen.

SIMON: How were you able to help Pink?

DUERR: Initially when the animal came in, it was not in very good condition so we needed to do a lot of supportive care first. We wanted the bird to be as strong as possible before undergoing anesthesia and then two surgical procedures that were each about three hours long. And then once I took the sutures out after about - I think it was 11 and 13 days from the surgeries - a little more time was required for that tissue to mature into something strong enough.

SIMON: Sounds like you've stitched up more than one pelican in your time?

DUERR: Oh, boy, it's fairly common. We get fishing line injuries and fish hook-ripped pouches pretty commonly, but they're usually not this big. This one was the biggest one I've ever seen, you know, ear to ear essentially.

SIMON: Can you tell us where he was released?

DUERR: He was released at White's Point, which is on Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County. One of our local congress folks opened the door and let him out, and he flew off like a champ.

SIMON: Any chance you'll see him again?

DUERR: Oh, yes, very much so. We have a project called the blue-banded pelican project, where we have large plastic easily red bands on the bird's legs, so we have a spot on our website for people to report sightings of such animals, and we love it when they take pictures as well and send them. So this bird's number is V70 on a great big plastic blue band. And he also has a steel, federal US Fish and Wildlife Service band on the other leg.

SIMON: So if anyone sees him, they can register that fact on the website.

DUERR: You bet. We can track him.

SIMON: Dr. Rebecca Duerr from International Bird Rescue, thanks so much being with us.

DUERR: Sure, thank you for having me.

SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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