Swimming around in his home in the Moore River, Nigel made the mistake of choosing a snack that contained fish hooks left behind by recreational fishers. The hooks tore a large hole in his gular pouch (the iconic beak pouch that pelicans use to catch their food) and embedded in his right wing. A large hole in the gular pouch is a serious problem for a pelican, as it impedes their ability to catch and swallow fish.
Luckily for Nigel, as he became weaker through pain, infection and lack of food, a very kind passerby managed to catch him. A lovely lady put him into the back of her combivan and drove him all the way to Vetwest Clarkson for help. On arrival, Nigel (as he was quickly named) was assessed by Dr Clare and the nurses. He was a little dehydrated and underweight, with the hole in his pouch and an infected wound on his wing, but otherwise in good health. He was rehydrated with oral fluids overnight, and the next morning we prepared for surgery.
Nigel was treated just as any of our patients are during his procedure. An intravenous catheter was placed in his leg vein so we could induce anaesthesia and give him IV fluids for the rest of the day. After he was asleep a breathing tube was put down his throat so we could give him oxygen and gas anaesthetic to keep him asleep, and two nurses were with him at all times to monitor him.
Dr Clare repaired the hole in his pouch with two layers of stitches to ensure a good seal that would allow him to catch fish effectively again. The hook was removed from his wing and the wound cleaned. He was given a pain relief injection and started on antibiotics, which he would stay on for several days.
That afternoon our wonderful wildlife carer Sue came to collect Nigel and he was taken to a rehabilitation centre in Mandurah. Over the next few weeks they slowly built up his strength again, until, 6 weeks after he first came into our clinic, he was released back to the Moore River again.
Nigel’s story is a very important reminder to all the recreational fishers. Please remember to always take home your fishing hooks and line, and before you throw away your fishing line (even at home) remember to cut it into small bits that birds at the garbage dump can’t get tangled in. We are so thankful that Nigel's story had a happy ending, but this isn't always the case.