Hungarian hospital helps injured birds back into the skies

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A unique veterinary hospital in eastern Hungary is saving the lives of wild birds, including many who sustain severe injuries during their long migratory journey to Africa to escape the harsh winters of northern Europe.

Located in the Hortobagy National Park, a World Heritage site on the Great Hungarian Plain, the hospital treats, among others, protected birds like cranes, storks and eagles that have flown into power lines, breaking their legs or wings, or have been poisoned or hit by vehicles on highways.

The wide open spaces of the National Park have preserved their traditional pastoral use, with herds of gray cattle grazing in the pastures and wetlands, a perfect place for a stopover for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds each year.

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Hungarian hospital helps injured birds
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Hungarian hospital helps injured birds

An injured owl receives anesthesia in order to have its broken wing fixed at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017.

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

Blackbirds wait for a food at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

Hungarian veterinarian Janos Deri looks at an Xray showing the broken wing of an injured owl at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

A sparrow is being fed at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An assistant sets free an injured eagel at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An assistant sets free an injured stork, which received a prosthetic leg, at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An injured owl has its broken wing fixed at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An injured stork, which received a prosthetic leg, flies in an outdoor recovery center at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An injured owl receives anesthesia in order to have its broken wing fixed at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An injured stork, which received a prosthetic leg, runs in an outdoor recovery center at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An injured stork awaits a new prosthetic leg at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

Hungarian veterinarian Janos Deri examines an eagle, which received a prosthetic leg, in an outdoor recovery center at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary, June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An injured kestrel has its broken wing fixed at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An injured stork receives a new prosthetic leg at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

Hungarian veterinarian Janos Deri sets free a buzzard at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An injured eagle is being examined at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

An eagle flies in an outdoor recovery center at a hospital for wild birds in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary June 27, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

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Doctors at the hospital have been saving the lives of these protected birds since 1999, by giving them prosthetic legs and fixing their wings, with around 40 percent of them eventually returning to the wild after a full recovery.

"What we love the most is when we receive birds that we can treat to full recovery, and set them free again," said veterinary physician Janos Deri, who founded the hospital. The birds which cannot return to the wild stay at the center, to the delight of tens of thousands of visitors every year.

They can watch the birds being operated on and treated, as the hospital also serves as an education center.

"We ... have learned about some of the birds in the area and it is good to see the injured birds that are being taken care of," Greg Lauttrull, 57, a structural engineer, visiting from Houston, Texas.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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