Rebuilding an injured owl’s wings‘It’s got to be exactly the right bird and exactly the right feather.’

As heard on RTÉ Radio 1

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After a suspected traffic accident, a rare owl, only 6 inches tall, lost the use of both wings.  Under ordinary circumstances, the little owl would have died within days, but thanks to the help of the UK’s Wildlife Aid Foundation, feathers were taken from a dead own and meticulously matched to the injured owl’s wing.  They were fixed in place with fine wire and surgical glue and will allow the owl to experience a full life until its new feathers are ready to grow.  On Mooney Goes Wild, Derek Mooney spoke to the WAF’s CEO, Simon Cowell about the little creature.

“This one was in big trouble.  It had been hit by a car we think and it was severely damaged.  The journalists of this world tried to say that it was a double wing transplant which was obviously not true but it was what we call imping.  We imped feathers from a dead little own onto this owl… and it flew off with great gusto.”

Imping is actually a technique used for hundreds of years by the likes of falconers and while it’s a highly specific but relatively simple procedure, not many vets would know to perform such a surgery.  The WAF keeps spare feathers in stock, taken from deceased animals for just such an occasion.

“It’s got to be exactly the right bird and exactly the right feather.  You’ve got to measure the feather, make sure the feather you’ve put in is the same size, and they sit in there perfectly.  It’s absolutely brilliant.”

It’s a success story for this little owl, but Simon is ever more worried about the state of our natural world, judging by what he sees on a daily basis working with the WAF.

“The sad thing in this country now… there’s far more roads, there’s far more hazards, millions of animals get killed on the road every year and we need to protect our planet and we need to protect our wildlife as well because if the food chain goes, we go and I think people aren’t really in sync with that….  I think the problems we’ve got in our oceans with plastic and all the other things absolutely scares me rigid and I don’t think people have quite twigged that we’re doing so much damage to this planet that we need to get up off our backsides and do something about it.”

Click here to listen to Mooney Goes Wild on RTÉ Radio 1.

© The Listener 2018

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