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SSA contributes $45K to Sonny Bono refuge for brown pelican

September 18, 2001|STAFF REPORT

The Salton Sea Authority voted Thursday to contribute $45,000 to the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge for construction of pelican flight pens at cooperating rehabilitation facilities.

This contribution will be added to the $30,000 the refuge has already received for the pens from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as well as many in-kind contributions from cooperators.

California brown pelicans and American white pelicans need large flight pens during the final stages of recovery from avian diseases to strengthen their flight muscles prior to their release into the wild.

During the 2000 avian botulism outbreak, 1,100 pelicans were sent to facilities throughout Southern California for rehabilitation. The four facilities involved in the rehabilitation are the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center in Indio, Pacific Wildlife in Irvine, Sea World in San Diego and Wetlands for Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach.

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The flight pens at the rehabilitation centers are considered a critical element of treatment and will aid in the timely recovery of the pelicans.

"We are pleased to continue our cooperation with the wildlife agencies and rehabilitation centers, and to help the pelicans when they are in need of our assistance," said Riverside County Supervisor Roy Wilson, president of the Salton Sea Authority board.

The Salton Sea Authority, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state fish and game department have a proactive disease response program in place at the Salton Sea that recovers sick birds in the early stages of avian botulism and avian cholera.

These capture, treatment and release efforts have been successful, with some 60 percent of the pelicans retrieved at the sea rehabilitated to full health. With flight pens it is expected that the rehabilitation rate will increase to 75 to 90 percent.

So far this summer, outbreaks of avian diseases have been limited in part to cooler-than-average nighttime temperatures, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

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