Last month, a concerned person alerted local Long Beach animal authorities about a brown pelican that was acting peculiar. The bird appeared to be in distress and was just “flopping” around. When authorities arrived, they found a bird that was obviously cold and painfully skinny. The bird’s size and other signs indicated that the brown pelican was malnourished. Unfortunately, malnourishment wasn’t the worst of this brown pelican’s troubles.
The bird had a huge slash on its pouch that cut through two layers of its elastic skin. The pattern of the injury wasn’t consistent with a bird that accidentally got caught on a fishing line or hook. At least one person had to probably use a lot of force to hold down the bird and cut through its pouch. The brown pelican was in so much pain that she couldn’t self-feed and she would’ve surely died a slow and painful death without intervention.
Fortunately, the brown pelican was eventually transferred to International Bird Rescue (IBR), and IBR is doing its part to care for the bird. But IBR can’t do everything on its own, and the organization is asking for your help, Care2 Members, in helping this innocent bird get justice.
Inflicting Pelican Pain on Purpose
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Harmon, the spokesperson for IBR, expressed that while it’s hard to tell if more than one person was involved, the pelican’s injury lines up with other human-induced injuries. Sadly, as Harmon explains, “It would take potentially a lot of strength to hold that bird down.” This means that at least one person went through the trouble of forcefully holding down the bird (that can weigh up to 12 pounds and have a wingspan of 8.2 feet) just to inflict pain.
Surgery is this pelican’s only chance at freedom. In the meantime, the team at International Bird Rescue have put staples on the laceration in order for the bird to start self-feeding.
Slashing the “Competition”
As reported in International Bird Rescue, Jay Holcomb, the director of IBR, explained that while pelicans are in no way “competition” for the fishermen, the fishermen still perceive them as such. While we’d like to believe that this brown pelican’s brutal attack is a rare and isolated event, many fishermen take it a step further by maliciously mutilating and, sometimes, killing innocent pelicans because they think that the pelicans are competing for the same fish sources. In reality, Holcomb shares how the pelicans aren’t “competition” because they aren’t after the fishermen’s fish. The pelicans are after the fishermen’s bait, namely anchovies and sardines.
Pelicans Know How to Bounce Back
While the California Brown Pelican hasn’t always had it easy, it knows how to make a comeback. Its recovery is one of the finest examples of the Endangered Species Act (both at the federal level and California state level). Legal protection from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act also helped the bird’s population recuperate from the devastating DDT pesticide consequences. According to Pelican Life, thanks to the DDT pesticide, “In 1969, 750 nests were found but only four hatchlings. In 1970, there was only one chick.”
Even though pelicans face natural and not-so natural dangers, human cruelty is a danger they face too often. According to the Pelican Rescue Team (PRT), they have seen pelican injuries like “broken/twisted bills, sliced or sliced-off pouches, broken wings and legs…and much worse.” PRT helped ‘Ellie the Pelly’ make a comeback after a human had intentionally broken her bill. While euthanasia seemed the only resort, Ellie got a second chance. A complicated surgery that required the realigning of her bill saved Ellie’s life. After she recuperated, Ellie got to fly back home like nothing had happened.
Thanks to GoPro camera technology, we actually got to see how Tanzania’s ‘Bigbird,’ another injured and abandoned pelican, relearned how to spread his wings and fly again — and it’s pretty epic. Let’s hope that we’ll see the Long Beach Brown Pelican soaring in the skies again soon.
Help This Pelican Get Justice
As of April 23, 2014, thanks to the generosity of individual donors and The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a $7,500 reward is being offered in exchange for information on this vicious and unnecessary pelican attack. There’s no excuse for leaving a pelican with its pouch hanging from her neck. If found and convicted, the perpetrator could pay a hefty fine of up to $15,000 and spend up to 6 months in a federal prison. If you have any information, then please alert the International Bird Rescue and the authorities. This pelican deserves justice.
Photo Credit: Beedie Savage