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Audubon Zoo releases recuperated brown pelican back into wild

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NEW ORLEANS - Audubon Zoo veterinary staff have released a brown pelican into the wild after they treated the bird for exposure to an oily substance the bird encountered in the Gulf of Mexico.

The pelican, nicknamed by vet staff “Snappy,” was set free on the Riverview in New Orleans, an area known to locals as “The Fly.” Riverview is located near the Audubon Zoo along the banks of the Mississippi River.

Snappy was brought to the zoo on Nov. 28 by Jeff Dorson, executive director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, just one day after the bird was recovered by members of a crew boat near Southwest Pass.

"The pelican looked pretty rough when it arrived,'' said Robert MacLean, senior veterinarian at Audubon Zoo. "Its feathers were wet and appeared not able to protect and insulate the bird.’'

Audubon Zoo staff bathed the brown pelican in detergent and water in an effort to clean the oil-like substance that covered the bird’s head and neck. He was then warmed and dried before receiving IV fluids and a hand-fed meal of fish. Later, Snappy received a second bath and x-rays/bloodwork before he was transferred to a large pen.

"We wanted to allow him to exercise his wings and show us he could gain lift and be a good candidate for a successful release,'' MacLean said.

After three weeks of intensive treatment, staff made the call that it was time for the pelican to return to its natural habitat in southeast Louisiana.

"It was very rewarding to see him walk to the river's edge, survey the landscape and fly back into the wild,'' MacLean said.

More images of Snappy's release can be viewed by clicking here.

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