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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Pelicans Released After Botulism Treatment

August 16, 2000

SEAL BEACH — With a little coaxing, 28 brown pelicans nursed back to health after a bout of botulism were released Tuesday at a wildlife refuge in Anaheim Bay.

The birds--which could barely lift their heavy beaks and pouches several weeks ago when they were brought from the Salton Sea for treatment--stood for a few minutes in the sand, then glided to the beach.

Since 1996, huge numbers of endangered brown pelicans have died of botulism from eating bacteria-filled fish. In that year alone, about 30% of the Salton Sea's brown pelicans died, said Jihadda Govan, an official for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Palm Springs.

Many of the pelicans drown, unable to raise their heads above the water as a kind of paralysis sets in.

Since then, thousands of the birds have been brought to the Pacific Wildlife Project in Irvine, a nonprofit group that specializes in rehabilitating sea birds. "What we run is very much like a M.A.S.H. unit for birds," said Linda Evans, executive director of the project.

About 600 pelicans have been treated and released into the wild at Anaheim Bay since July, Evans said.

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