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'Saving Pelican 895' from the gulf spill

A scene from HBO Documentary Films'

A scene from HBO Documentary Films' "Saving Pelican 895," the story of the effort to save the 895th surviving oiled pelican in Louisiana. More than 7,000 birds died as a result of the April 2010 BP oil spill that spread throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Photo Credit: HBO, 2011

The state bird of Louisiana, the brown pelican, was wiped out in the state by DDT and pesticides that flowed down the Mississippi to its rookeries by 1963. Then, another catastrophe hit the new population a year ago Wednesday when BP's Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank.

Seven thousand pelicans would subsequently die from oil exposure, but the efforts of a dedicated group of biologists and other workers at the Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center had rescued 894 pelicans by the time filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky ("Hear and Now") turned up.

This is about efforts to save the 895th. At first, oil is suctioned out of the ample mouth and stomach. Then, birds are sent to a triage station where they learn to essentially feed themselves; 895 is almost a baby, so he (or she -- sex here is not specified) struggles. Later it's "marinated" in a soy-based oil degreaser. This process saved almost 1,300 birds.

MY SAY Consider the pelican -- because, after all, there aren't many times during the course of a day, month or year that we actually do. On land, they plod about like the entire gravitational pull of the earth was specifically designed to penalize them. But in the air, they are winged glory personified, gliding just above the water like a perfect line of poetry.

That a creature such as this, nearly soiled to the point of elimination by human error, deserves saving goes without saying. This film establishes why. Taxpayer dollars were not used to save No. 895; BP had to pay the bill by law. The money was especially well-spent.

Wednesday night, you'd perhaps like a few more questions answered (OK, admittedly I did). How's 895 doing, for example? What of other birds lost and saved? But this is a gratifying reminder of what could have been lost, and wasn't.

BOTTOM LINE For bird -- especially pelican -- lovers.

GRADE B+

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