Jackson Zoo provides refuge for gulf pelicans - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson Zoo provides refuge for gulf pelicans

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By Marsha Thompson - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - These associated press images shocked the world.  They were taken June 3rd along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.  Brown pelicans are mired in thick oil, their waterproof feathers spoiled.  Unable to fly and eat, many were left to die in the surf.

Thousands of volunteers came to the rescue.  Among them the deputy director of Jackson's zoo.

"Horrible.  It is an absolutely horrible thing that has occurred," said Jackson Zoo Deputy Director Dave Wetzel.

One by one sea birds were given a through cleaning and given life-saving care.

The care and feeding of 20 American white pelicans rescued in Louisiana has fallen into Wetzel's hands.

"They are eating us out of house and home.  They go through a full case of fish everyday," he said.

1,500 pounds of fish will last these sea birds about 45 days.

Wednesday, these large pelicans were not covered in oil, but some had oil residue on their feathers.  This combined with their injuries made it more difficult to survive in the wild.

"Once they are brought into captivity through the rehab centers, federal law doesn't allow us to release them again unless they are 100%," said Wetzel.

Jackson has become a temporary way-station for them.

"The American Zoo Associations have agreed to take the non-rehabable birds from the oil spill and give them permanent homes in zoo's across the country," said Wetzel.

It's a delicate balancing act awash in a coastal crisis.

"The entire gulf is going to be affected by this in one fashion or another for the next decade or two or three or four, and God forbid that it will not be able to recover in some areas," said Wetzel.

Wetzel expects an assortment of other species to be arriving at the zoo as the gulf clean-up continues.

Donations are helping offset the cost.

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