Wrong Becomes Right and Takes to the Skies! - uShaka Marine World
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Wrong Becomes Right and Takes to the Skies!

On the April 5th our SAAMBR team who are based at uShaka Marine World were able to celebrate a special moment. After seven weeks in rehabilitation, “Wrong”, the common tern was ready for release.  – amid all the COVID-19 difficulties – this was an extra special release.

On February 24th, a common tern (Sterna hirundo) was rescued by Carl Schloms, lead Herpetologist at SAAMBR, while he was out fishing on his paddle ski at the Mdloti river mouth. The tern was floundering in the water with what appeared to be a fractured right wing.

Upon examination by SAAMBR veterinarian, Dr Francois Lampen, it was found that he had an open right wing fracture and would need surgery to mend the fracture. He was fondly named Wrong by the staff before he underwent surgery as they wanted him to prove that one wrong turn doesn’t mean the end of all hope. Dr Lampen managed to stabilise the fracture by placing a pin into the radius bone and strapping the wing to the body using a light bandage.

Wrong recovered well from the anesthesia and was placed on a course of antibiotics, pain medication and vitamins. He started eating the following day, but had to adjust to wearing a bandage around his wing and body. He limited himself to occasionally pecking at his bandage, as he investigated the veterinary team’s bandaging skills.

Wrong fed well and appeared to be healthy, despite his injuries. He enjoyed his daily seafood platters of pilchard, prawn, squid, and sprat.  Wrong also enjoyed a mirror that was placed in his enclosure, often vocalising to his ‘friend’ on the other side.

It was necessary to do follow-up radiographs so as to verify that the fracture site was stable, and that the injury was healing. This also gave the team a chance to clean the wound, apply new dressing and re-bandage the wing. After a seven week recovery period, which involved a lot of physiotherapy and strict nutrition management, Wrong the Tern started to fly!

When the team started his rehabilitation process, most were uncertain if he would ever fly again. Dr Lampen always emphasised that the chances of flight were slim, and that release was a near impossibility. However this little tern exhibited an incredible will to live. His resilience humbled us all. When he started stretching his wings and flying around and hovering in his rehabilitation area, we were all amazed, and knew that his release was imminent!

Tracy Shaw, who cared for Wrong said “From the minute I met this beautiful little bird, I just knew that he was special, and that we needed to do everything we could to save him. He taught me so much. It was a privilege working with him. His fighting spirit and tenacious character inspired us all. Watching him take to the skies, soaring over the ocean, was a truly rewarding and humbling moment.”