Click here for the latest update on Pink's recovery

As if we needed any more proof of just how cruel humans can be to other members of the animal kingdom, along comes this story of a brown pelican found in California’s Long Beach with a slashed throat pouch – a wound described by rescue officials as “consistent with human-caused injury”. International Bird Rescue (IBR), the organisation now caring for the injured bird, says this is the worst deliberate pouch slashing it's ever seen.

 

The injured bird was spotted by a passerby earlier this month and taken to IBR's local centre for treatment. The pouch injury would have prevented the pelican from feeding, so it was thin, weak and malnourished, the LA Times reports. The shape of the cut on its pouch (also known as a gular pouch) indicated the wound was deliberately inflicted (rather than an accidental injury on a fishing line or hook).

Jay Holcomb, the IBR’s executive director, says fishermen sometimes injure birds because they are falsely seen as competition. “Pelicans are of no threat to anyone, yet they continue to be mutilated and even killed by people who see them as competition for fish,” he said in a statement. “The truth is a pelican’s diet is mostly anchovies and sardines – fish that are used as bait by people who fish for sport.”

Although the rescue centre doesn’t make a habit of naming its avian patients, this particular pelican stood out, so it was nicknamed ‘Pink’, after the pink leg band it was fitted with upon arrival. Pink will now need multiple surgeries and extensive rehab to help it recover. An IBR vet has already performed one successful three-hour procedure to try to stitch up the pouch's delicate layers. (Prior to surgery, Pink did manage to get some much-needed helpings of sardines thanks to temporary staples placed over the pouch wound.)

 

As for the person responsible for harming the pelican, a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction was just recently upped to $10,000. The federal crime is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months. 

“In my 40-plus years as a wildlife rehabilitator, I’ve seen too many of these horrible attacks against innocent animals,” Holcomb said. “The public is sick of it too, and we hear their frustration. We as a society cannot and should not tolerate these crimes any longer.”

If you’d like to help IBR care for Pink (and other injured and rescued birds), make your donation here.

UPDATE: Two surgeries later and Pink the pelican is recovering well and will hopefully be returning to the wild in the near future. Veterinarian Rebecca Duerr, who performed the life-saving surgeries, says, “barring complications, I’d like the bird to stay happily eating in the aviary for a little while longer in order for the newly repaired skin to mature and strengthen before it has to hit the ocean at high speed in a plunge dive ... so far, so good.”