Trying to save oil disaster penguins

From BirdLife:

First Tristan penguins released from ‘rehab’

Tue, Apr 5, 2011

The first 24 penguins of more than 3,600 admitted to the “rehab centre” on Tristan da Cunha after the oil spill around Nightingale Island have been released back to sea.

“The penguins were selected from the strongest ones, with no visible oil on their outer plumage,” reports Trevor Glass Tristan da Cunha Conservation Officer. “Of the many tested to see if they were ready for release, only 24 had perfectly waterproof plumage.”

“It was an emotional moment to see these penguins released from captivity and walk into the sea and then swim off among the waves,” said Katrine Herian, the RSPB Project Officer on Tristan da Cunha. “The Tristan islanders are putting hundreds of hours of their time into saving the oiled penguins and we hope these are the first of many to be released”.

1000s of penguins need life-saving treatment

On arrival on Tristan the penguins are stabilised and kept indoors in the rehab shed, after which the fittest ones are moved to an outside pen. From here the cleanest and strongest ones are moved to the island’s swimming pool, which is refilled daily with fresh, unchlorinated water.

So far, 3662 oiled penguins have been admitted to the rehab centre. 373 have died since the first batch of 500 were admitted on 23rd March. About 25% of the penguins at the centre are currently in the release pool.

But there are still many oiled penguins which require urgent washing. A team from SANCCOB (The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, an internationally recognised leader in seabird rehabilitation), is on its way, bringing the specialised equipment and materials needed for cleaning the penguins, but their arrival is being delayed by rough seas.

The rehab centre was set up after the cargo ship M.S. Olivia ran aground on Nightingale Island on March 16, spilling 800 tonnes of fuel oil into the sea at the heart of one of the most important breeding colonies of the Northern Rockhopper Eudyptes moseleyi. Nightingale, Tristan and Inaccessible islands hold around half the population of this globally Endangered species.

Island gets set to wash thousands of penguins: Experts arrive on Tristan to help save thousands of Northern Rockhopper penguins: here.

See also here.

The first rockhopper penguins to be washed at the newly erected wash-bay facility were drying off under infrared lights Saturday night. This was a rewarding moment for Rehab Manager Dereck Rogers, who has been closely involved with the care of the penguins from the moment the first oiled penguins were brought back to Tristan more than two weeks ago. He was elated at being able to hold a cleanly washed penguin: here.

Update 5 April 2011: here.

Update 12 May 2011: here.

First assessment of Endangered Northern Rockhopper Penguins since 2011 oil spill: here.

What lurks in the deep water off the most remote inhabited island in the world? This past month, a team of researchers trekked to Tristan da Cunha, an island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, to find out: here.

7 thoughts on “Trying to save oil disaster penguins

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