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Pelican whose mutilation sparked outrage to be released Tuesday

Pink, the pelican who is recovering from a slashed pouch, will be released Tuesday, activists say

A California brown pelican who has endured weeks of intensive recovery after having its throat pouch mutilated last month will be set free Tuesday, a bird rescue organization announced.

The pelican, dubbed Pink, will be released at White Point Park in San Pedro, said International Bird Rescue. 

For roughly six weeks, the pelican has been recovering at International Bird Rescue's San Pedro facility after a bystander found it flopping on Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach on April 16. The pelican underwent two operations that required hundreds of stitches to repair the ear-to-ear gash, which left the pouch dangling on its neck.

The bird, once unable to feed on its own and described as anemic, now appears eager to leave its outside aviary, the organization said.

"Over the course of treatment, I've seen Pink transform from weak and sad to feisty and voracious," said veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr, who oversaw the pelican's surgeries. "Despite having the largest pouch laceration I've ever seen, he did great during post-operative care and has healed in record time." 

Word of Pink's ordeal resonated with bird lovers and fellow animal advocacy organizations, spawning a $20,000 reward to find the person who mutilated the pelican. The Port of Long Beach also donated $5,000 toward the bird's surgical and rehab needs. 

"We're thrilled to release a strong and healthy Pink, one of hundreds of pelicans we care for every year," Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue's executive director, said in a statement. 

Over the past year, the organization said pouch slashings by humans have been seen not only in California, but in Florida and North Carolina.

Anyone with information can report anonymously to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which is overseeing the investigation, at (310) 328-1516. 

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