NWF Visits Oiled Bird Rehabilitation Center

"I felt a mix of sadness, guilt and anger"

06-16-2010 // Aislinn Maestas
Oiled pelicans waiting to be cleaned

After spending the last two days investigating coastal areas devastated by the oil spill, National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski spent today visiting the oiled bird rehab center in Louisiana. Here is David’s account of what he saw and felt as he walked through the Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center:

“The facility is a large warehouse. The center is open only for media, and then only for three hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There were strict rules as to where media could go and to whom they could speak. We were not allowed to speak to the clean-up workers, only to the appointed tour guide leaders.

"Inside, there were a series of large wooden pens housing brown pelicans in various states of health and rehab. In the cleaning area, there were several large sinks with hoses and tables neatly stacked with bottles of Dawn dish detergent and towels. Wildlife rehabilitators, in teams of two, worked on cleaning the pelicans. One restrained the pelican while the other washed and rinsed it. Pelicans are big, powerful birds and without one person to focus on holding it, the bird could easily deliver a painful bite or whack with its wings.

To see these birds covered in oil was really hard. I felt a mix of sadness, guilt and anger. Watching them struggle as the workers tried to clean them and knowing the fear they must be feeling was heartbreaking. They don't know we're trying to help them.

Oiled pelican being cleaned

“Outside, there were large pens with spacious pools of water filled with cleaned pelicans waiting for release. These birds had successfully gone through the cleaning process and were now spending seven to ten days outside waiting for the veterinarians to approve their release. Seeing that was a little more uplifting but also brought into clear focus the urgent need to pass clean energy and climate legislation NOW to avoid these kinds of horrific disasters in the future.”

Read more about how the oil spill threatens the recently recovered brown pelican and read David's thoughts on why we must try to save oiled birds.

You can help wildlife threatened by the oil spill by donating online, making a leadership gift or donating via your mobile phone. Your support will help NWF's on-the-ground volunteer and restoration efforts.
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