Beach litter warning after rescued Point Peron pelican regurgitates stomach full of plastic

Headshot of Indigo Lemay-Conway
Indigo Lemay-ConwaySound Telegraph
The juvenile pelican regurgitated all of this plastic six days after its rescue.
Camera IconThe juvenile pelican regurgitated all of this plastic six days after its rescue. Credit: WA Wildlife/supplied

With a coastline as beautiful as ours, it’s easy to forget the amount of rubbish that gets washed up on to beaches or left behind, but the contents of this juvenile pelican’s stomach should act as a firm reminder.

Volunteers from WA Seabird Rescue found and rescued a sick pelican on the coast of Point Peron on January 4.

It was taken to the WA Wildlife Hospital and placed in the ICU.

Operations director Dean Huxley said it was clear how unwell the young pelican was when it first came in.

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“It was dehydrated; more often than not they have parasites so they’re quite skinny, and it had diarrhoea and ulcers to its eyes, so our vets put it straight on fluids and gave it supportive care,” Mr Huxley said.

The pelican is expected to make a full recovery.
Camera IconThe pelican is expected to make a full recovery. Credit: WA Wildlife/supplied

“To be honest, we didn’t actually think this one would survive when it first came in because of how lethargic it was, but our vets did a great job with it.”

Mr Huxley said it wasn’t until six days later that it regurgitated all the plastic shown in the above photo.

“If you were to roll all that up, you are looking at a ball of plastic roughly the size of two fists that was sitting in its stomach and intestines. Normally its stomach wouldn’t be capable of holding that if it was a fish, let alone all of that plastic,” he said.

“It’s such a slow, painful, drawn-out death for them that I don’t think people really think about. Without intervention, it would 100 per cent have died.”

The pelican is slowly making a full recovery and will remain at the wildlife hospital until it can be safely released back into the wild.

Plastic ingestion is a common cause of bird deaths and Mr Huxley said two out of three seabirds that came to the WA Wildlife Hospital had hooks, fishing lines, bottle caps or small bits of plastic inside their stomach.

The State Government is continuing its crackdown on the use of single-use plastics, with plastic bowls, cups for cold beverages and hot foods, plates, cutlery, stirrers and straws banned in WA from January 1.

Thick plastic bags, helium balloon releases and expanded polystyrene food containers will also be prohibited from July 1.

Mr Huxley encouraged people to make urgent life changes to help save our native animals.

“I think people assume we have the luxury of time to save animals, but quite frankly we are losing that battle on the grand scale,” he said.

“People really need to make these lifestyle changes now, otherwise these beautiful animals won’t be here in the future.”

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