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May 24, 2002

Endangered Brown Pelican death toll mounts

Toxic algae continues to impact seabirds off California Coast

T he International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) reports that as of May 23 it has received a total of 62 brown pelicans sickened by the toxic algae bloom which has been affecting the food chain for two months.

"It has slowed down to an average of two birds a day, but the birds are definitely still being impacted," said Jeannie Magis, rehabilitation manager of the San Pedro center, which is treating the birds. "We know the brown pelican death toll is in the hundreds now", she added, "but we don't yet know what the impact is on the breeding population, and the offspring, which are now hatching in the Channel Islands breeding grounds."

California's Brown Pelicans, which were listed as endangered in 1971, have received blow after blow to their existence. Plume hunters, egg collectors, DDT, mass slaughter, botulism, death from fishing lines and now, their food supply, which is mainly anchovies and sardines, is poisoned. Staff at IBRRC are able to save some of the birds with an aggressive fluid therapy program developed by their veterinarians, but most pelican's don't reach the hospital in time to be saved. The poison quickly enters the brain, causing seizures and then death.

Researchers are concerned for the population, should the toxic algae bloom continue into the summer, when the young are fledging. "We can only count the birds that we find dead and those who are still alive when they come in, but we don't know how many are dying out at sea and not found. With an endangered species, every bird's life is precious," Magis observed.

Volunteers are needed to help with the pelicans and also orphan spring babies that have started arriving. Anyone interested in helping should attend the volunteer orientation scheduled for Wednesday, June 5, at 7PM. The center is located at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center, next to the Marine Mammal Center, in Fort Mac Arthur Station, 3601 South Gaffey Street in San Pedro, phone 310-514-2573. More information and directions to the center are on the IBRRC website at www.ibrrc.org. Donations can also be made on the website.

Anyone finding pelicans or other birds in distress should also call the center for instructions, as it is illegal to keep wild birds and try and treat them yourself.

Brown Pelican/Domoic Acid/statistics:

Since April 17, 2002, 62 brown pelicans have been brought to International Bird Rescue Research Center's hospital in San Pedro.
Total birds received alive: forty-nine
Dead on Arrival: seven
Humanely euthanized on arrival: six
Humanely euthanized while in care: fourteen
Died while in care: thirteen
Successfully rehabilitated and released: sixteen
Currently in care: six

Media contact:

Karen Benzel

Office: (831) 622-7588

E-mail: karen@ibrrc.org


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