Bird takes wing with a new leg

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

A vet­eri­nary as­sis­tant frees an in­jured stork that re­ceived a pros­thetic leg at a hospi­tal for wild birds. The fa­cil­ity, which has been in op­er­a­tion since 1999 at Hor­to­bagy Na­tional Park in Hun­gary, freed the bird on June 27.

BU­DAPEST, Hun­gary — A unique vet­eri­nary hospi­tal in east­ern Hun­gary is sav­ing the lives of wild birds, in­clud­ing many who sus­tain se­vere in­juries dur­ing their long mi­gra­tory jour­ney to Africa to es­cape the harsh win­ters of north­ern Europe.

Lo­cated in the Hor­to­bagy Na­tional Park, a World Her­itage site on the Great Hun­gar­ian Plain, the hospi­tal treats, among oth­ers, pro­tected birds like cranes, storks and ea­gles that have flown into power lines, break­ing their legs or wings, or have been poi­soned or hit by ve­hi­cles on high­ways.

The wide open spa­ces of the Na­tional Park have pre­served their tra­di­tional pas­toral use, with herds of gray cat­tle graz­ing in the pas­tures and wet­lands, a per­fect place for a stopover for hun­dreds of thou­sands of mi­gra­tory birds each year.

Doc­tors at the hospi­tal have been sav­ing the lives of these pro­tected birds since 1999, by giv­ing them pros­thetic legs and fix­ing their wings, with around 40 per­cent of them even­tu­ally re­turn­ing to the wild after a full re­cov­ery.

“What we love the most is when we re­ceive birds that we can treat to full re­cov­ery, and set them free again,” said vet­eri­nary physi­cian Janos Deri, who founded the hospi­tal. The birds which can­not re­turn to the wild stay at the cen­ter, to the de­light of tens of thou­sands of vis­i­tors ev­ery year.

They can watch the birds be­ing op­er­ated on and treated, as the hospi­tal also serves as an ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter.

“We ... have learned about some of the birds in the area and it is good to see the in­jured birds that are be­ing taken care of,” Greg Laut­trull, 57, a struc- tu­ral engi­neer, vis­it­ing from Hous­ton, Texas.

LAS­ZLO BALOGH / REUTERS

LAS­ZLO BALOGH / REUTERS

Vet­eri­nar­ian Janos Deri ex­am­ines an ea­gle, which re­ceived a pros­thetic leg, in an out­door re­cov­ery cen­ter for wild birds in Hun­gary.

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