MEMPHIS, TENN. – Memphis Zoo staff members, accompanied by The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), released a rehabilitated adult male bald eagle into Lauderdale County this morning.
On March 9, TWRA Officer Tim Ward encountered the bird in an area north of Ripley, Tenn. The bird was lethargic, and laying down across a railroad track. Upon capturing the bird, Ward brought it to Memphis Zoo to be treated.
“He was in bad shape when I found him,” said Ward. “I knew the first few days were the most critical, so after I dropped him off, I kept checking in with the Memphis Zoo team for updates.”
After a thorough examination, Dr. Felicia Knightly, Memphis Zoo Senior Veterinarian, determined the bird had a blockage in its throat. Knightly removed the blockage, and kept a watchful eye on the patient during its recovery. After a week, the bird resumed eating its normal diet, and began the process of rehabilitation.
“Successfully treating, and ultimately releasing a bald eagle back into the wild is another rewarding way that conservation plays a role in our work,” said Knightly. “Partnering with the TWRA on this successful recovery has allowed Memphis Zoo to do what we do best – help animals thrive. To see one of our nation’s symbols soar back into the sky today gave me great pride in this team effort.”
On average, Memphis Zoo helps rehabilitate three bald eagles a year. Once the rehabilitation process has been completed, the eagles are returned to the location where they were originally found. All bald eagles in captivity, including those in AZA accredited zoos, are birds that can no longer survive in the wild.
Bald eagles, as a species, are a conservation success story, and have made a comeback over the last few decades. In 1963, only 417 known breeding pairs of bald eagles were known in the lower 48 states. In 1967, the eagle was declared an endangered species. In 2007, bald eagles were removed from the Endangered Species List due to ongoing conservation work. As of today, there are 200 active nests in Tennessee alone.
About Bald Eagles
In 1782, the bald eagle was adopted as the symbol for the United States of America. Its likeness can be seen on anything from money, to individual state’s seals, to the Great Seal of the United States. It is the only eagle unique to North America.
Bald eagles are not actually bald. When viewed from a distance, the bird might look bald, but its head is covered with thick, white feathers. Their name most likely comes from the Old English word “balde,” meaning white. All feathers, including those on their head, are extremely important– if a bald eagle loses a feather on one side of its body, they will lose a matching one on the other side. This allows for them to stay in perfect symmetry, and helps with flying and balance.
About Memphis Zoo
Memphis Zoo, located in Memphis, Tennessee, is home to more than 4,500 animals representing over 500 different species. Recently named as one of the top zoos in the country by TripAdvisor® and by USA Today, Memphis Zoo has completed over $93 million in renovations and expansion since the early 1990s. The Zoo’s animal inhabitants reside in one-of-a-kind exhibitry, such as Once Upon A Farm, The Commercial Appeal Cat Country, Primate Canyon, Animals of the Night, Northwest Passage, Teton Trek, CHINA - home to giant pandas YaYa and Le Le, and the all-new Zambezi River Hippo Camp. Memphis Zoo was founded in 1906 and resides on 70 acres in the middle of Overton Park. It is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Memphis Zoo, YaYa and Le Le are trademarks of Memphis Zoo.