As scores of endangered
brown pelicans fall victim to the domoic acid incident happening
off California's coast, an organization treating the birds
is running out of funds and resources and is questioning why
state and federal agencies are not helping.
"We have endangered birds, dying on the beaches
and the burden of rescuing and caring for them has fallen
on us,"said Jay Holcomb, director of International Bird
Rescue Research Center (IBRRC).
IBRRC's center in San Pedro has treated 43 live
pelicans brought in by rescuers and the public in the past
three weeks and has been able to save 45% using an aggressive
fluid therapy treatment developed by their vets.
"Treating pelicans is very expensive, because
they are large birds, and some are requiring extensive treatment
for up to 11 days," Holcomb said. "We are running
out of funds, and we are very concerned, because we don't
know the long- term impact on the population. Pelicans are
nesting, and young pelicans typically have a high mortality
rate, but that doesn't affect the population as much as the
death of a mature pelican who would have had many years of
breeding ahead of it."
Last summer, scores of pelicans died from fishing
line/hook injuries and IBRRC's Northern California center
treated over 200. A public awareness campaign was mounted
because many people didn't know that California's brown pelicans
were an endangered species, with an estimated breeding population
of only 5,000 breeding pairs.
Holcomb is concerned that on the one hand his
organization is trying to educate the public that the birds
are protected, and shouldn't be harmed or handled, yet the
public is calling the center asking what to do about the dying
birds on the beaches. Holcomb feels that state and federal
wildlife agencies need to respond to this incident, as well
as provide financial aid to the wildlife centers treating
them. The center's veterinarians developed an aggressive fluid
therapy to flush the toxin out of the bird's system before
it causes permanent brain damage and death.
"We are able to save the birds using this
method," says Jeannie Magis, rehabilitation manager,";but
it is very labor intensive and expensive. We need volunteers
immediately to help our staff, as well as donations of money
to buy the fluids and fish needed to save the birds."
The center has received loons, grebes and a rhinoceros
auklet as well. Outbreaks of domoic acid affect the food chain,
including mussels, anchovies and sardines. In years past,
hundreds of marine mammals have died, and now the pelicans,
which feed mainly on anchovies and sardines, are falling victim
to this deadly algae bloom.
IBRRC's rehabilitation center is located at the
Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center, 3601 South
Gaffey, next to the Marine Mammal Center in Fort MacArthur.
Directions to center
Anyone interested in volunteering should call
the center at 310-514-2573 or 2574. Donations can be taken
to the center or mailed to IBRRC, PO Box 2816, San Pedro,
90731. IBRRC manages the San Pedro facility as part of the
California's Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN).
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Office: (831) 622-7588