Turtles, Pelicans, and More–Oh, My!

Chantal Audran with Delta Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski

Chantal Audran with Delta
Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski


There’s no such thing as a “typical” day at the office for Chantal Audran and Beth Palmer. One minute they’re wrangling a young loggerhead for a photo op. Less than an hour later, they’re chasing an injured pelican so they can get it to a vet.

Audran and Chantal both work at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center on—you guessed it—Tybee Island, Georgia. The center is small compared to many other science centers and aquariums. But the organization’s hands-on science more than makes up for it.

“Our mission is to cultivate responsible stewardship of coastal Georgia’s natural resources through education, conservation, and research,” says Palmer, Program Director for the center. Exhibits highlight various species that live in and around the coast. The center also offers guided marsh and beach walks that let visitors see wildlife up close and personal in their natural habitat. Other programs include counting and monitoring turtle nests along the island’s sandy beaches.

So, what about that turtle wrangling? Delta is a 1-1/2 year old loggerhead turtle. She’s been living at the center and is just about to be released into the ocean to join other “teenage” turtles. While Delta is nowhere near her adult weight of 250 pounds, she’s still pretty hefty.

After several tries, Audran managed to grab Delta from behind and carry her to a table in the center’s work room. She and Palmer took several measurements. They also shot photos to go with the press release that will go out when Delta is officially released next week.

Visitors to the center can still see a loggerhead. Ike hatched on August 28, and he’ll be happily swimming around at the center until he too is old enough to be released. (Thanks to the local IKEA for sponsoring Ike!)

And the pelican? My husband and I had passed it on our walk to the center, and I wondered why it was just sitting there on the beach, letting me snap about a dozen photos of it. We wondered it if might be injured, or just resting, or something else.

Anyway, I asked Audran about it while we were at the center. And as we walked back along the beach, she and Palmer were already on the scene with a large plastic carryall and a couple of wet towels.

Chasing an injured pelican is a lot harder than you’d think it should be. And an injured pelican does not particularly want to be caught. This one snapped its beak a lot.

Beth Palmer and Chantal Audran try to help an injured pelican. Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski

Beth Palmer and Chantal Audran try to help an injured pelican.
Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski

After several tosses with the wet towel, the bird was weighted down. Then Palmer and Audran gently pushed the bird into the carryall and closed the lid. Holes in the lid would let the pelican breathe until they got it to a vet.

“It looks like her wing is broken,” Audran told me. “That’s the worst thing.”

“Injured wings are very serious for birds as they will be limited on finding food and avoiding predators,” Palmer explained. “The severity and recovery of the injury will determine if the bird will be fit for release back into the wild.”

Thanks to Palmer and Audran, this pelican is getting some help. Let’s hope it has a happy ending.


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