Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
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The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida in Indian Shores, and was founded in 1971 by Ralph Heath. It has been called "the largest wild bird hospital in North America". It is equipped with emergency facilities, a surgical center, and indoor and outdoor rehabilitation areas. Formerly, an average of 30 wild birds were admitted every day for a variety of reasons. According the Sanctuary, approximately 90% of these injuries are directly or indirectly attributable to humans.
In 2002 over 10,000 birds, spanning 159 different species were admitted to the hospital for care and over 80% of the birds that survived the first 24 hours were successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild. These statistics ranked the Sanctuary as one of the largest and most successful wild bird hospitals in the United States.
The variety of species that are permanent residents at the Sanctuary ranges from song and garden birds to the birds of prey. The goal is always to release the birds after they have recuperated from an illness or injury; those who have sustained injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild are kept permanently at the Sanctuary or given to another reputable facility. Any offspring these permanent residents produce are released into the wild.
The Sanctuary has emphasized captive breeding of the brown pelican. This program has aided in educating zoological facilities and wildlife refuges all over the world in addition to reestablishing this species in the wild.
In 1998 the Sanctuary came to the aid of a floundering wildlife center located in Key West, Florida. Wildlife Rescue of the Florida Keys was on the brink of closure due to lack of funds when the Sanctuary took over the facility. The Key West Center has been rebuilt to accommodate the needs of wildlife in South Florida and birds in migration.
In January, 2013, the sanctuary announced that it would close its wild bird hospital after a staff walk-out. While the hospital remains closed, the organization continues to rescue and care for wild birds on Florida's Gulf Coast. In April 2013 Sumter Disaster Animal Rescue Team helped the Sanctuary refurbish and prep the wild bird hospital to reopen.
- Gatches, Pamela (April 8, 1990). "Seabird Sanctuary founder is honored". St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida). Retrieved February 13, 2013.
- Lindberg, Anne (5 March 2013). "Times Staff Writer". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- Miler-Most, Jen. "Executive Director". Sumter Disaster Animal Rescue Team. Tarpon Springs Patch. Retrieved 6 May 2013.