USA Today: Stowaway pelican rescued by cruise ship

Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas served as an avian ambulance last week when it brought an injured pelican to a Tampa emergency animal hospital, a spokesman for the veterinary service said.

The bird landed on the ship’s port-side 12th deck last Wednesday at about 5:30 p.m. as the vessel was returning to Florida after calling in Cozumel, Mexico. When it took off, it hit the ship’s superstructure and was injured, according to a Hillsborough County Animal Services officer that brought the injured pelican to the animal hospital.

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When the ship arrived in Tampa the pelican was transferred to the county service at 10 a.m., which then took it to BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa. The bird was diagnosed with a minor wing injury and dehydration. It was given an IV, and monitored overnight. On Friday the bird was moved again to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, Fla., for rehabilitation.

The high-flier was quite a traveler itself. It was last seen in Holland Island, Md., on Sept. 7, where it was tagged by the U.S. Geological Survey Bird Banding Laboratory.

It was hardly the first high-profile patient for BluePearl. Its avian and exotic medicine team treats birds, reptiles and wildlife from Tampa attractions including Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium and Lowry Park Zoo.

This item was written by Larry Bleiberg, former Travel Editor of The Dallas Morning News and Coastal Living magazine. Bleiberg is serving as Guest Editor of The Cruise Log while USA TODAY Cruise Editor Gene Sloan is away.