MV Rena Spill: International Bird Rescue Assisting with New Zealand’s Worst Environmental Disaster in Decades
Last week International Bird Rescue was activated to respond to an oil spill in New Zealand after the 775 ft (236 m) cargo ship, MV Rena, ran aground on a charted reef off the North Island port of Tauranga. Fuel oil leaking from the ship has caused New Zealand’s worst environmental disaster in decades and many oiled birds have been recovered, both dead and alive.
After the initial release of over 300 metric tons of oil from the Rena, attempts to pump the remaining oil off the ship have been difficult, as this process has to be timed in between storms. Additionally, many cargo containers from the ship have fallen into the ocean and are littering the beaches.
International Bird Rescue’s Emergency Response Team has been working with Massey University, Wildlife Health Center, and many other wildlife responders under the Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) National Contingency Plan to assist oiled wildlife from the Rena spill.
There are currently 273 live birds in care, including Little Blue Penguins, Pied Shags, a Kingfisher, a Fluttering Shearwater, a White-fronted Tern and New Zealand Dotterels.
The NZ Dotterels, large shorebirds, have been of particular interest, as biologists believe that there are fewer than 1,700 of this species left in the world and 100 are known to live along the coast of the Bay of Plenty. The National Contingency Plan specifically dictates that they are of the highest conservation value, and a plan to preemptively capture up to 60 was put in place. If there is further catastrophic release of oil, these birds will be safe, and can be returned to their nesting habitat once it is clean.
Additionally, the Department of Conservation field teams have been running night operations to collect any Little Blue Penguins (also known as Fairy Penguins) that are oiled on their nightly trips back to their burrows. These Penguins use the same paths consistently, so the field teams are able to locate and evaluate the birds for any oiling.
The International Bird Rescue team has been fully integrated with the Maritime New Zealand National Wildlife Response Team at the Wildlife Center, and is helping feed, clean and condition birds, while helping with volunteer management and facility support.
We will continue to update you on our efforts in helping New Zealand operate the oiled bird rehabilitation center.
International Bird Rescue
Live Birds In Care: 273
- 207 Little Blue Penguins
- 3 Pied Shags (1 un-oiled)
- 1 Kingfisher
- 1 Fluttering Shearwater
- 1 White-fronted tern
- 60 NZ Dotterels (56 un-oiled/4 oiled)
Dead Birds Collected: 1290
Other Dead Animals Collected: 4
International Bird Rescue Emergency Response Team Members On Site in New Zealand:
- Barbara Callahan, Wildlife Coordinator
- Curt Clumpner, Wildlife Center Deputy
- Julie Skoglund, Rehabilitation Specialist
- Deirdre Goodfriend, Rehabilitation Specialist
- Michelle Bellizzi, Rehabilitation Specialist
- Susan Kavaggia, Rehabilitation Specialist