A day in the life of an SPNL field officer during migration season
By Maher Osta
At 10:30 this Saturday morning I got a call from Assad Serhal our General Director telling me that there’s a shot pelican under the good care of BETA and that they contacted SPNL for advice.
He sent me a number that I called, and I was informed that the bird was shot and had a serious wing injury. They have already taken the pelican to a vet who bandaged the wing after performing X rays and verifying that there are no broken bones. The bird was not eating although they provided him with fresh fish.
I asked them to send me the location and I headed there with my daughter who is an animal lover and she always insists to accompany me on such trips.
We soon arrived at the location in Araya, and we checked their shelters which are under very professional construction.
Yousef, the guy taking care of the facility, showed us the bird. A juvenile great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) was sitting at the edge of a bathtub with his head tucked in beneath a bandaged wing.
In the water were some fish for him to eat, but he showed no interest in eating.
They have already named him Nemo.
I explained to Yousef that they usually don’t eat normally after the shock and stress of being blasted out of the sky and that we need to coax Nemo into feeding mode.
I picked up a fish in my hand and I reached my hand in front of Nemo. His reaction as a wild bird is to bite in self-defense, and he did exactly that. He bit my hand and I threw the fish inside his beak pouch that made his specie famous as a cartoon character. No worries here, pelicans have the softest beaks and I’m used to getting bitten.
While I was waiting for Shirine from BETA to arrive (she’s the one who saved Nemo) to explain to her and the BETA team how to provide the best care to Nemo, I got a call from Andre Bshara of SPNL telling me that there’s an injured crane in Ras EL Maten.
After we finished from Nemo, we headed towards Ras El Maten where we were met by Mr Rafic Makarem from MESD who let us to an iron cage at the entrance of a meat house where the crane was being kept. Luckily, the meat house owner, Mr. Osmat Abou Rafeh is an ethical hunter residing in Ras El Maten which was declared a Hima by an agreement with the municipality and SPNL, a Hima where people are directly involved in preserving nature for future generations. Mr. Rafeh willingly handed us the injured common crane (grus grus) and we put it in a cardboard box and headed straight to MLHC (Mount Lebanon Hima Center) where SPNL built a big aviary to take care of such cases.
Unlike hundreds of soaring birds that were illegally shot over Lebanese soil in the past few days, both the pelican (Nemo) and the crane (still waiting to be named) have a good chance of being released back into the wild where they will roam the sky with their counter parts once again.
We’ll keep you posted.