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275 parrots were left stranded by Hurricane Ian. Rescuers are flocking to save them.

The rescue mission, called Operation Noah's Ark, was launched in the aftermath of the hurricane to catch, cage and ferry the birds off Pine Island.

275 parrots were left stranded by Hurricane Ian. Rescuers are flocking to save them.
Cover Image Source: Facebook/10 Tampa Bay

Hurricane Ian was devastating and numerous animals have been displaced as a result of the storm. Many animals have been left stranded with no food, but animal rescuers have come together to ensure that the stranded animals find their way to safety. Will Peratino and Lauren Stepp are owners of the Malama Manu Sanctuary in Pine Island, Florida, home to more than 275 parrots (and two lemurs), including some of the rarest parrot breeds in the world. The name of the sanctuary embodies the couple's ideals, with the Hawaiian words for "protect" and "bird."

When Hurricane Ian hit the islands, they swore to protect them. In the days before the storm, the couple corralled the flock of birds and crammed them inside their house. Wildlife authorities have been donating food to the birds but a collapsed bridge started to prevent deliveries of life-sustaining supplies such as food and gas, according to the Associated Press. The couple asserted that they would not leave their Pine Island property, even after the collapsed bridge started to make it difficult to get bananas, peanuts and other food for the birds.  



Officials pleaded with locals to evacuate their homes in the aftermath of the hurricane. However, the couple maintained that the sanctuary means everything to them. "We would not abandon them. I would never leave them. Never," said Stepp as workers sought to gather the flock from many coops. “If they cannot be fed or watered, they will die. And I can’t live with that."

To convince Peratino and Stepp to leave the island, a rescue effort called "Operation Noah's Ark" was initiated on Tuesday to capture, cage, and ship the birds off of the island. "You don't know what we've been through here. We had four feet of water in the house, damned-near drowned," Peratino said, tearing up. “To have every bird safe is a huge undertaking,” Peratino said. “I mean, it's almost impossible to do. So the kind of help we've gotten has been invaluable.”

Bryan Stern, Project Dynamo founder and director, spearheaded the rescue operation. He shared that his crew had saved at least six dogs, three cats, and, before Tuesday's big rescue, three birds. Project Dynamo constructed four boats for the task. “Our animal numbers are about to be blown out of the water by 100 cages of parrots,” Stern said, before embarking on the rescue mission.



“It's been nuts,” said James Judge, who owns the boat “Slice of Life,” which led the small flotilla of rescue boats. “Will and Laura, who own the sanctuary, their hearts and souls are in the birds. So they're going through their own suffering from the hurricane,” Stern said, “and having to rebuild their lives. They lost all kinds of stuff. Is the answer to that to lose more?”

The volunteers confined the birds in cages for several hours on Tuesday using nothing but nets and their bare hands. The birds squawked and fluttered their wings as their keepers caged them, including rare king parrots (only two dozen pairs are kept in the United States), cockatoos, and macaws. Some whistled and chatted, some of them using verbal playfulness. 



Ghassan Abboud, a dentist from Chicago, runs a bird farm in West Palm Beach. He gathered his resources to assist the couple when he learned of their situation. He thought he would hire a small boat to transfer the bird cages from Pine Island to a pier on the mainland, where an a/c trailer would take the birds across the Florida peninsula to his property.

However, by pure accident, he bumped into the Project Dynamo crew, who had been volunteering to assist in the rescue of those trapped by floodwaters and damaged roadways. “I could never write a script like this. It was perfect. I thought I’d be back all day long in a small boat," Abboud said. “What these guys have done has been unimaginable. They dedicated their resources. They saved so many birds.”


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