Two months ago a 25-centimetre (10-inch) owl, or Athene Noctua, hurt his back when he flew by mistake into a stovepipe at a factory in eastern Madrid, Spain. The bird was sent to Brinzal, an owl-rescue charity based in a park in the west of the city, where acupuncturist Edurne Cornejo pricks four fine needles into his legs to stimulate key points in his nervous system.
The owl was unable to stand when he was brought to Brinzal. After 10 weekly acupuncture sessions the owl has started taking little steps and is able to fly again. Cornejo is a family vet who specializes in acupuncture for dogs and cats. She visits Brinzal as a volunteer to treat ailing night birds brought there each year by the public.
Brinzal's centre has been providing acupuncture for its owls for six years. Brinzal's co-ordinator, Patricia Orejas said, "About 1,200 birds are brought to the centre each year, of which about 70 percent recover and can be returned to the wild."
According to the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society the use of this ancient Chinese technique in animals is growing worldwide. Acupuncture stimulates self-curing mechanisms in the organism and does not cause side-effects unlike some medicines. Acupuncturist vets recommend it in animals for muscle and joint problems, nerve, skin, breathing and gut complaints.