Oil spill impact: ten rescued pelicans released after two months of treatment

Published - March 02, 2024 01:04 am IST - Chennai

Spick and span: The pelicans being released in Ennore on Friday.

Spick and span: The pelicans being released in Ennore on Friday. | Photo Credit: M. SRINATH

A total of 10 pelicans adversely affected by the oil spill in Ennore last December were released after two months of rehabilitation at the Guindy National Park.

The Forest Department, along with experts from the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary (BMAD) was engaged in treating the spot-billed pelicans caught over a span of 20 days. The birds were extremely weak and unable to fly due to matted feathers. 

On Friday, a team led by Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary to the Departments of Environment, Climate Change and Forests, and E. Prasanth, Wildlife Warden, Chennai, released the pelicans at to the Ennore Creek, the place from where they were rescued.

For the past two months, the birds were sheltered at the Guindy National Park, where they were fed with about 12 kilogram of fish every day. 

Speaking to The Hindu, N.V.K. Ashraf, Chief Veterinary Officer and Vice President of WTI, said it was not easy to capture the birds. “It was an open area, the creek was deep, and there were mangrove plantations. It was difficult to capture them on a boat,” he said. The team used dishwashing detergent to clean the oil and grease off the birds. “They went through at least four to five rounds of cleaning. Without intervention, they would have died,” said Mr. Ashraf. 

In the initial days, the birds experienced vomiting, and oil and grease were spotted in their faeces. Shravan Krishnan, coordinator of BMAD, said the pelicans were weighed before and after the rehabilitation. All of them gained weight.

To prepare them for release, the team set up a 12-metre-wide swimming pool to check the waterproofing of their feathers. According to Mr. Krishnan, experts from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (the WTI is a part it) were consulted.

Ms. Sahu said it was a first-of-its-kind exercise for the Forest Department, and a lot was learned from it. “Something like this [oil spill] should not happen again. The [rescue] operation was possible only through the collaboration of organisations,” she said.

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