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May 9, 2002

Domoic acid incident killing Brown Pelicans

Bird rescue center appeals to government agencies for help

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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Media contact:

Karen Benzel

Office: (831) 622-7588

E-mail: karen@ibrrc.org


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