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Longboat Key Monday, Apr. 5, 2021 1 month ago

Save Our Seabirds hires first-ever vet

The organization is hosting a virtual fundraiser event to reintroduce people to the facility.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

Though their doors remain closed, Save Our Seabirds is letting people take a peek beyond the bird cages.

After canceling their Sunset Soiree in spring and fall 2020, the avian organization on City Island is putting together a virtual fundraiser to reintroduce people to the place with behind-the-scenes footage of the bird hospital and bird habitats. Because their doors have been closed for over a year because of the pandemic, this is a big moment for Save Our Seabirds, which has many chatty, social birds in residence. 

“This is just an update on what life has been like since we last saw people,” CEO David Pilston said. “Our staff has really focused on spending more time interacting with the birds than ever before … especially parrots are interactive and love to interact with people."

The virtual event,  from April 7-10, will also serve as the formal introduction to Dr. Maria Passarelli, the facility’s first full-time veterinarian. She started in December and launched Save Our Seabirds from an avian help center to a full-fledged avian hospital. They can now order medications to make injured birds comfortable immediately and Passarelli is in the process of setting up a sterile surgical suite. 

“Historically, our hospital was run by highly experienced hospital technicians,” Pilston said. “(Now) we can do all sorts of other surgeries. Previously, really serious cases we had to send out to a vet and bring back and rehab, and now we can do all those procedures on site.”

Passarelli’s presence will allow the hospital to expand its capabilities not only with surgery and on-site care, but also with education. Now that there’s a fully trained vet at the facility, Pilston foresees a future as a true teaching hospital for Save Our Seabirds. 

“We already do a lot of education programs and we always do vet internships,” Pilston said. “Now we can really raise the level of that now that we have all these additional capabilities and equipment that we’re adding.”

Maria Passarelli. Photo courtesy of Save Our Seabirds.

There’s still no concrete reopening date for Save Our Seabirds, Pilston said, which is why they decided to go with the virtual event to catch people up on life at the facility. The hope is that there will be an in-person fundraising event in the fall to officially relaunch the dormant capital campaign, which will expand the facility with an entry and education building, renewed rehabilitation facilities and an educational, bird-themed playground. Out of a $5 million goal, Save Our Seabirds has raised about $2 million. 

“Last year’s Sunset Soiree was intended to be the big launch,” Pilston said. “In November 2019 we had a donor appreciation event and introduced the capital campaign to them first. The intention was to do a big formal launch with a couple hundred people in the audience. So this is a relaunch, but we have made really good progress on it.”


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