Putting her arm down the gullet of a struggling pelican to remove fishing tackle while the bird is unable to breathe is sadly not a first for WIRES volunteer Janine Green.
However the life-saving action resulted in retrieval of the grisly trophy of the hook, line and sinker an opportunistic pelican had swallowed whole when it swooped on a just-caught fish.
It also produced the fish still attached!
Saving pelicans from an easy meal and the detritus left behind by fishers is becoming a regular occurrence for Janine.
Last Thursday she and her husband Baron teamed up with National Parks and Wildlife Services to rescue a line entangled pelican at Eden after someone notified Fisheries officers.
Janine and the team removed two fish hooks and a metre of fishing line from the pelican’s bill and body.
Janine has corralled and treated three pelicans since the June long weekend to rescue them from fishing line entanglement and the pain of embedded hooks.
“Pelicans get into trouble because they are opportunists; if someone else catches it for them it becomes a lot easier to eat.”
Enter the bird that swallowed the caught fish, tackle and all.
Using a flat metal detector similar to those used in airports, Janine detected the fishing tackle in the bird’s belly.
With the assistance of two trained helpers who restrained the pelican, she quickly ‘fed’ her arm down the bird’s throat to retrieve the tackle.
“It’s very gross,” she said.
“They put up a bit of a fight because they can’t breathe with your arm down their throat so you have to do it very quickly.”
In a stomach the size of a woman’s fist, finding a fish is easy.
“You couldn’t do it with most animals,” she said.
“Aside from anything, their beaks aren’t going to hurt you too much whereas another sea bird like the gannet can give you quite a nasty bite.”
While new bio-line breaks down within five years (six months if composted), traditional line takes 600 years to dissolve, proving fatal for many animals who ingest it.
To prevent this awful fate, Janine is available round the clock, doing “flying leaps” off the end of a wharf to catch an entangled bird or slipping down boat ramps with fistfuls of fish skeletons to entice them nearer.
Several more pelicans escaped treatment.
There’s quite a team working to rescue sea birds and also to reduce the amount of injuries.
WIRES recently received grants totalling $2500 to buy more metal detectors.
“WIRES has been very lucky to get some funding to buy some flat screen metal detectors so that when seabirds and pelicans come in we can quickly find if they have a hook in their beak or wing,” she said.
WIRES received $1000 from Club Sapphire, $1000 Pambula Merimbula Golf Club and $500 from Rotary.
The Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre is also waiting for news on a grant from the Caring for our Country Community Action Grants.
If successful they’ll team up with the National Parks and Wildlife Service to train up to 40 volunteers in seabird rescue and also set up a display in the centre.