Monday, December 17, 2007

More Mexican Wildlife Stories

One of my favorite animals here in Mexico is the pelican. I used to stand on our balcony (in the house we rented last year) and watch the birds soar in formation 30 feet above the ocean's surface and then suddenly plummet to the water in search of food. Sometimes as many as 30 of these creatures would fly by in an evenly spaced line -- spectacular!

Unfortunately, not everyone here appreciates these powerful, fish-loving birds as much as I do. To the local fishermen, they are in the same category as rats and stray dogs. Several times during the year, we find wounded or dead pelicans on the beach. Most of the time the best thing we can do is end things mercifully.

We actually tried to help a pelican with a broken wing last summer. The kids affectionately named him Bill, and we did what we could. I did learn several things in the pursuit of medical attention for Bill. First of all, if you have a broken wing (or more likely, a broken arm, leg or finger) and you are seeking first aid, you need to go get an x-ray. Neither the urgent care clinic nor the veterinary office has this equipment. I know now where the rayos-x laboratory is. A good thing to know with our crew, I think! Secondly, I learned that there are organizations in the States who are willing to pour thousands of dollars into the "Save the Pelican" cause. I was willing to transport Bill to the vet, give him antibiotics, set and bind the bone, and hunt fish for him, but when the majority of children in our area survive on less than $5 per day for food and necessities, I couldn't bring myself to allow an organization -- even a really neat, honest organization with lots of money -- to dump 5 grand into air lifting a brown pelican from Los Mochis to Florida for specialized medical care. I guess I'm just not that much of a bleeding heart afterall. I got him comfortable, treated the infection and sent him on his merry way. I heard later that he had ended up at Esteban's mom's house begging fish and then adopted a restaurant down the beach and hung out there for scraps. Quite the oppotunist!

But, as I said, I'm willing to do what I can. Not all the injured pelicans we find on the beach are mortally wounded and not all are cause by mean people. A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I were walking on the beach when we found two pelicans in distress. Apparently they had been fighting and the younger of the two had most definitely lost the battle. (Graphic description follows -- PG13) The young brown's neck was obviously broken and he was very dead. The older, white-headed pelican was, however, very much alive. The problem was that the young, dead pelican's long neck was hopelessly entangled in the live pelican's beak pouch. There was no way that the live pelican would survive long with a dead pelican attached to him. Already, the stray dogs had begun to circle. He looked a little perplexed, to say the least. My experience with pelicans has been that they are a bit surly. Sarah says I'm not being fair, because every one I've dealt with has been injured in one way or another, so of course they would be grumpy. All I know is that their beak packs a powerful WHOMP. And they have quite a reach! So, my mission was to disentangle a dead pelican from the live pelican without causing further damage to his already torn pouch (or to myself!) in the process. Shortening a long story: I went to the hotel (near where we were) and borrowed a machete. Then I threw my jacket over the live pelican and had Sarah hold him down while I removed the dead bird's head -- necessary, believe me.

I wish I had another photo of him untangled, he was definitely a beautiful fellow! But he took off the instant he was free.

Not even a nod and a thank you! What cheek! :^)

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