Monday, March 1, 2010

Hoots, Howls, and Hollers 03/01/2010

On Saturday I was privy to a powerful experience at Liberty Wildlife. I got to watch a maestro at work. The occasion was a surgery on Condor 133 who, as you know if you read This Week at Liberty, is under our care for lead poisoning. She was brought in with lead levels of 347—incredibly high. To say she was thin is a gross understatement. She weighed 14 pounds instead of the normal 22 pounds. A feeding tube had been surgically inserted into her crop to insure that she got enough nutrition while her crop, made dysfunctional by lead poisoning, was given time to regain its function. The surgery on Saturday was to remove the tube because she had begun to gain weight, and it was hoped that she would feel better, eat better, and grow strong enough to be released back into the wild.

It has been a while since I have watched/participated in a surgery at Liberty….I try to stay out of the way of the pros. I had forgotten what an example of team work it is. It felt a little bit like preparation for a symphony. The instruments were assembled and placed in their appropriate section more for efficiency and facility than aesthetics. Roles were determined, explained, practiced ahead of time led by the seasoned experience of our own Maestro, Dr. Orr. With all of us in place—now enters the Diva. Carried unceremoniously, beak under control, wings and feet in strong hands, Condor 133 is introduced to the anesthesia mask….thankfully!

Weighed, anesthesia tube inserted and taped…the baton is tapped so to speak and the show begins. Jan donned the stethoscope to monitor heart rate, respiratory rate, and basic color of the skin. Alison was in charge of maintaining a straight neck to accommodate the anesthesia tube and to always be in control of the beak. Max drew the black bean and monitored the lights and wrangled the rest of the body. Anna fetched and flushed, and I took notes writing down the significant milestones of the surgery like time, heart rate, anesthesia numbers (I was almost out of my comfort zone but fascinated by every move.) And, Kathy, the Maestro took over. I won’t describe in details the sights and smells of emptying a crop of a vulture—definitely falls in the category of “too much information” and besides describing the sensual experience defies my abilities…I just don’t think I can properly share the impression it makes on you. I can say, that no one could do it better than Dr. Orr!

So, Dr. Orr worked her magic and the rest of the orchestra correspondingly did their jobs. Condor 133 does seem to feel better; she is eating better; we are counting on her getting stronger and stronger.

Success means sending Condor 133 back into the wild. It seems ironic that she was one of the first six condors released in Arizona in May of 1996. She is the only one of the original six left. She has reproduced and proven to be able to make it for the last 14 years. Almost dead from lead, wouldn’t it be great if she could once again go back into the wild by May 2010?

The culprit in the case of Condor 133 is lead poisoning, but condors aren’t the only thing threatened by this toxic substance. There will be more on this subject next week in Hoots, Howls, and Hollers. Stay tuned.

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