The seagull strangulation

Things aligned today and I set off to Shelley Bay for the first bike ride in a while. I pulled up and parked the car just where some old piers stand in the water, with Danger signs all over them. The closest was several metres from the shore, through some maybe head-height water.

Danger on the piers at Shelley Bay.

Danger on the piers at Shelley Bay.

After I’d unloaded the bike from the back of our ‘new’ old car I glanced up and realised a seagull was hanging from the side of one pier, fluttering in vain to free itself from some old discarded fishing line.

Now, I’ve never really cared for seagulls, I think because when I attended the old Christchurch Girls’ High School as a pupil we would eat our lunches in Cranmer Square, surrounded by gulls screaming for tidbits of food.

But I don’t like to see any living thing suffering, and this poor seagull obviously was.

There was no way I could reach it though to attempt to free it.

Shelley Bay seagull in trouble.

Shelley Bay seagull in trouble. The gull is hanging on the side of the pier not far from the right-hand end.

I looked around: there was nobody nearby who had a boat or diving equipment who I could approach to see if they’d rescue the bird. After a few moments I realised I could call the SPCA to see if they’d be able to help.

That’s where my problems started. It was easy to open up my iPhone and search for the SPCA. Except the best result goes to the Auckland page. After further searching I located Wellington’s contact phone number. The iPhone’s smart and detects phone numbers in web pages. I tapped the number, tapped a confirmation that I wanted to call it and waited.

After a couple of tries it went through — and I heard a series of rapid pips that I believed was the ‘number disconnected’ signal.

Well, that wasn’t helpful, but I thought maybe it was some quirk of poor cell reception. I went into the nearest business — an art studio of some kind — where I was able to use their landline. I still couldn’t get through.

The artist checked the phone book for me while I was busy calling up the whitepages in my web browser. Nothing helped: the number just ‘pipped’ at me.

Then I tried Directory Services. They had the same number, but did offer to put me through to the Upper Hutt SPCA. I figured they could help me reach the local group, but reached only an answerphone.

Friends I tried to call were out.

By now, of course, I was wondering if all this hassle were worth it for just a seagull. But suffering is suffering, and I didn’t want to give up on the poor thing.

Finally I rang the vet service I’ve been using for a couple of decades now and explained the problem. The staff member tried calling the SPCA, with no success. Then she suggested she could try faxing them and I provided details.

Hooray! That worked! A few minutes later, after I’d anxiously headed out for a couple of Km into potential cellphone deadzone, and then started back, an SPCA worker called me back and promised to take a look at the situation.

Inspectors are also called upon to rescue sick, injured, stray or lost animals and wildlife. They attend more than 2,000 incidents of this kind each year. [Miraz’s note: that’s an average of 5 or 6 per day!]

Not too long after that the SPCA inspector arrived on scene. He realised he’d need a boat and went round to nearby businesses to see if he could find one. One was available, but with no oars.

The SPCA car in Shelley Bay.

The SPCA car in Shelley Bay.

Ultimately we had to abandon the bird to its sad fate. In the hour or so that had passed it had almost stopped struggling anyway, probably exhausted.

Inspectors are appointed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to enforce the Animal Welfare Act 1999. … All of the Animal Welfare Inspectors’ work and legal costs are entirely funded by donations from the public. We do not receive any government funding to carry out this work.

Before the SPCA inspector left I mentioned the problem with the phone. He said they have 5 incoming and 4 outgoing lines that are always so busy even he can’t get through when he needs to. It seems I’d heard an overloaded tone rather than a disconnected tone.

9 phone lines and they’re overloaded — for a service funded entirely by donations and part of whose work is to enforce a law. Doesn’t that seem wrong?

I wonder how much the seagull incident cost?