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A Shocking Sight…

A tragic image has recently been clicked in Florida, the US… that of a Skimmer feeding a cigarette butt to its baby on a local beach! The Skimmers, forming the genus Rynchops, are tern-like birds in the family Laridae. The genus comprises three species found mainly in South Asia, Africa and the Americas. They were formerly known as the ‘Scissorbills’. Karen Mason, a professional photographer, clicked the image earlier this week. The image went viral immediately after she posted it on her Facebook page.
Initially, the Largo resident failed to realise what the mother bird fed the chick… she only guessed that it was not a fish! When Karen enlarged the image on her computer after returning to home, she found that it was a cigarette butt! Later, she posted the image on Facebook, with the caption: “If you smoke, please don’t leave your butts behind…” She also wrote: “This Skimmer chick was offered a cigarette butt by (its) parent. It’s time we cleaned up our beaches and stopped treating them like one giant ash tray.” Karen added a #nobuttsforbabies hashtag. She did not forget to mention that the photo was clicked at St Pete Beach in Pinellas County, Florida, on June 20, although she first shared the photo with the world through Facebook on June 24.

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Karen posted two more images on Facebook. One amongst them shows that a Skimmer chick is enjoying a cigarette, just like they eat fish or other food items, by swallowing it while lifting up the mouth, while the other image shows that a little Skimmer is walking with a piece of cigarette in its mouth!
As per a report on ‘Conservation of the Sea’ prepared in 2018, cigarette butts have, for decades, been the most-collected item on beaches around the world. As Karen posted the images on Facebook, the environmentalists slammed smokers for their careless attitude towards the nature. At the same time, environmentalists praised Karen for spreading awareness about litter. A person wrote: “Thankful for the awareness wildlife photographers can provide in educating the public and providing visuals for potential legislation changes. I hope your image continues to spread.” Another one stated: “This photo is fantastic and will hopefully shock people into realising what impact humans are making to this planet. Thank you so much for this photo!

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Mason volunteers at the birds’ nesting sites mainly to educate people about Skimmers, her favourite birds, and other wonderful creatures

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