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Monkey conservationists stretch their wings to rehabilitate injured bird

Posted by: Keith Thompson, Colobus Conservation Ltd., a Woodland Park Zoo Wildlife Survival Fund project

For field conservationists dedicated to protecting colobus monkeys, file this one under “Other Duties as Needed.”

Photo courtesy of Colobus Conservation, Ltd.

Colobus Conservation was called about a sea bird that had washed up on the beach of a nearby hotel. On arrival, I was handed a large cardboard box by the manager and told in no uncertain terms to be careful. Upon opening the box I realized why I was getting the warning as I was face-to-face with the razor sharp bill of what we later determined was a masked booby, which is a pelagic diving bird similar to a gannet.

After assessing the bird back at our vet clinic, we observed that there was nothing broken but the bird was severely underweight, exhausted and dehydrated. After a few days of assisted feeding, the bird regained a little of its strength and started to eat on its own. We outfitted one of our rehab enclosures with suitable flooring and a paddling pool.

Photo courtesy of Colobus Conservation, Ltd.

The bird continued to improve and gain weight for the next four weeks before we decided to move on to the next phase of release. Unknown to us, this was not going to be an easy process, and took around six weeks of daily visits to the beach for the booby to regain his ability to fly and to waterproof his feathers.

During this period he became quite the celebrity to tourists and locals alike, flying further and further from shore, but always coming back either by swimming or his preferred method of hitching a ride on his monitor’s surf board.

Photo courtesy of Colobus Conservation, Ltd.

On July 4, 2015, he chose to celebrate Independence Day and flew over the horizon, never to be seen by us again. It was a real challenge and required a huge team effort to reach this conclusion as the rehabilitation of sea birds was alien to us all and is far from easy.