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Albatross brought back from the brink

Albatross release A shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) was found in a weak and emaciated state on Foxton Beach in early December 2013.

Suspected to be “storm blown”, the bird was taken to Wildbase Hospital where it was treated for anaemia, dehydration and starvation. Whilst initially showing improvement, the bird started regurgitating and deteriorated rapidly until it almost died a few days after admission.

Resuscitated by veterinary staff, an intraosseus (into the bone) catheter had to be placed due to collapse of all accessible veins. Critical care over the next 48 hours saw the bird finally start to turn around and from then on it steadily improved.

Unfortunately, it was not as simple as an immediate release. Time spent in captivity and regurgitation of fish had disrupted the feather waterproofing, so once the bird was strong enough it needed to be washed.

24 hours after washing in our Oiled Wash Facility, a daily routine of swimming in the deep pool for 2-6 hours a day was begun. The bird’s waterproofing returned just in time for Christmas, with a successful release on 23 December.  Much thanks goes to the Manawatu Coastguard for their assistance in the release.

Managing pelagic seabirds is a fine balancing act between ensuring the bird is waterproof and strong enough to be released, and getting them out of captivity as soon as possible. Prolonging captivity can cause feathers to be more immediately damaged by handling, and fish oils in faeces or food can cause feather oiling.  They are also prone to the effects of stress and foot lesions. In this case the balance was achieved and it was a great outcome for all involved.

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