Information on panelists, paper submissions and more will be found in the coming weeks at eowconference.org.
Oil Spill Response
International Bird Rescue has sent a four-person team to assist in collection and rehabilitation efforts for wildlife affected by the bitumen release at the Canadian Natural Resources Limited Primrose Project in northeastern Alberta (read this report in the Edmonton Journal for more information on animal care efforts).
We are proud to be working alongside The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton and the Oiled Wildlife Society of British Columbia. Coleen Doucette, Vice President for the Oiled Wildlife Society of British Columbia, is managing the animal care program.
Currently in care are two American Beavers, two Muskrats, a Mallard Duckling and an American Coot. The two American Beavers in care are juveniles and have undergone cleaning, while one Adult muskrat was also cleaned, and all are in good physical condition.
We will keep you updated on the response effort via this blog.
Founded in 1971, International Bird Rescue has extensive experience in oiled wildlife events around the world. During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we co-managed oiled bird rehabilitation centers in four states as part of a large-scale response to the incident that involved federal and state agencies, industry and non-governmental organizations.
Map of International Bird Rescue historic response efforts:
This week, we’re truly putting our “Every Bird Matters” tagline into practice by responding to an oil contamination event that has affected animals on Alaska’s remote St. Lawrence Island.
Along with local villagers, federal and state officials have found a total of seven oiled seabirds and seals on the island, located in the Bering Sea (for more information, read this article in Wednesday’s Anchorage Daily News). Both the origin and type of oil is unknown and currently under investigation.
So far, one live oiled bird has been recovered: a juvenile Thick-billed Murre, which is currently being treated at our Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC) in Anchorage. The AWRC was created in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and remains a vital resource for oiled bird rehabilitation in Alaska.
Thick-billed Murres are fascinating seabirds, nesting on rocky cliff faces and producing eggs that are pointed at one end to help prevent them from rolling off the ledges. Just three weeks after hatching, flightless chicks dive into the icy waters below and begin to swim for hundreds of miles. (Read more about this species here via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Alaska Region.)
This murre came to our center on November 10, and was stabilized and fed for a few days by IBR rehabilitator Julie Skoglund. It was washed on Tuesday, and is currently being waterproofed and living in one of our small rehab pools. We will return this bird back into the wild as soon as it meets its criteria for release, hopefully within a few days.
Though this mystery spill has produced only one live oiled bird thus far, we are prepared and equipped to handle more should they be found. Our job is to care for all birds harmed by human interaction. So, here we are in Alaska, helping a bird that otherwise may not have survived.
Meanwhile, in California, International Bird Rescue is currently caring for birds affected by natural oil seepage on the Pacific coast. Oiled birds include this large, male Western Grebe recently washed at our Los Angeles regional rehabilitation facility.
Update: This bird has been successfully rehabilitated and release. Click here for release photos.
Murre photos/video by Julie Skoglund.
A team of six oiled wildlife response experts from International Bird Rescue has been deployed to Montana following the Yellowstone River Pipeline Spill. The response team, headed up by Director Emeritus, Jay Holcomb, began arriving in Billings, Montana, on July 3 and will be working with state and federal wildlife agencies to help coordinate the rescue and rehabilitation of any impacted wildlife.
International Bird Rescue’s team has responded to over 200 oil spills in more than a dozen countries around the world.
To report oiled wildlife in Montana, please call 1 (888) 382-0043.
For further information on the response go to www.exxonmobilpipeline.com.
We are almost into July and have just taken in our 600th bird here in Louisiana at the Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center. The majority of those birds have come into the center in the last 2 weeks when a section of oil was carried to shore near Grand Isle, LA and impacted many brown pelicans and other smaller bird species. We currently have about 300 clean and beautiful brown pelicans outside in large cages getting ready for release. They are starting to be released today in groups and we will continue to release them twice a week until they are all gone. There are currently about 100 oiled pelicans in the building waiting to be washed and some smaller species of birds such as gulls and herons.
The heat here is very difficult to work in but everyone is doing well and moving the birds through the rehabilitation process. We have set up specific times for the media to come and film the birds and the work so that it limits the stress on people and animals. The media has been very cooperative with us.
I play a few roles here in Ft. Jackson and one is the External Affairs role that puts me in touch with the media and the world at large so I thought I would take this opportunity to answer some of the main questions that I am being asked daily.
Question: Where the pelicans are going to be released?
Answer: The pelicans are being flown to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Will they come back to Louisiana? There is that possibility but the US Fish & Wildlife Service has determined that this is the best place to release them at this time. It is a long way from the spill so we are hoping that they stay in the area, at least for a while. The smaller inland birds are being released in the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area just north of Lafayette as they become ready.
Q: How long is IBRRC and Tri-State Bird Rescue going to be in the Gulf of Mexico helping care for the birds?
A: Well, as long as the oil is gushing from the earth and birds are at risk of getting oiled then we will be here.
Q: Is BP supporting your efforts to care for the oiled birds?
A: Yes, BP is the responsible party and is paying for all the costs associated with the care and rehabilitation of oiled birds. IBRRC and Tri-State Bird Rescue are hired to manage the rehabilitation program for the oiled birds from this spill so in actuality we are contractors for BP.
Q: What will the success rate be for oiled brown pelicans?
A: It’s impossible to predict the future but these are very healthy and strong birds and have a good chance at surviving the rehabilitation process. The majority of these birds are handling the stress of oiling, washing and rehabilitation extremely well, as expected. Over 300 of them have been cleaned and are in outside aviaries at this time getting ready for release. Brown pelicans typically have a high survival rate in oil spills when they are captured early on and given the appropriate care, as has happened here to date. I expect the majority of them to make it but time will tell and we will report on these birds as we move through the spill.
Q: How can people help or donate?
A: Well, as I have said before, we currently have plenty of help and are not in need of volunteers. As well as the Tri-State and IBRRC response teams, wildlife paraprofessionals from the Gulf Coast States are supplementing our workforce. In Louisiana, this is being coordinated by LSART (Louisiana State Animal Response Team).
Regarding donating to the cause, there are pelicans and thousands of other wild animals all over the country that need help and are cared for by wildlife rehabilitators. I urge everyone to locate their local wildlife rehabilitation organization and support them and their great work in helping our precious wildlife get a second chance at life. Check with your state department of Fish and Game and they can help you locate a worthy wildlife rehabilitation organization.
Beware of the NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) that claim they are raising money to help either restore the gulf or set up mass volunteer networks for spill response. Everyone wants a piece of this pie and a number of these groups who have never done much about oil spill response in the past are now asking for money, holding fundraising events, telethons etc. and using many tactics including celebrity endorsement and the media. They are opportunistic and take advantage of every oil spill or big disaster and I strongly urge you just to be cautious. Before you donate ask how and where your money will be spent before you give.
Again, the real unsung and under-funded heroes who help wildlife around this country are the wildlife rehabilitation organizations who work 24/7 to care for our precious wildlife. They are hands on, on the front lines and the results of their efforts can be witnessed every time they release a rehabilitated animal back into the wild. My strong suggestion is that you support these organizations if you really want to help wildlife!
Thanks for visiting our blog. I will be in touch soon with more news and to answer more questions and share more pictures.
– Jay Holcomb, Executive Director, IBRRC
International Bird Rescue Response Teams starting working in Gulf Coast within days of the Deepwater Horizon well blow out on April 20, 2010. With nearly 40 years of experience on more than 200 spills, IBRRC brings a wide variety of skills working with oiled wildlife.
The birds included five American Coots, two Western/Clark’s Grebes, a Eared Grebe, a Horned Grebe and a Greater Scaup). The healthy birds were set free in Berkeley.
A total of 49 live oiled birds have been captured following the tanker spill on October 30, 2009 about 2 1/2 miles south of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. At least 20 birds have been found dead after spill that leaked up to 800 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay.
The birds are being treated in Fairfield at the San Francisco Oiled Wildlife Care & Education Center (SFBOCEC) that is co-managed by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC).
You can see more updates on the OWCN Blog
Photo courtsey: OWCN
DARK DAYS ON SAN FRANCISCO BAY
More than a 1,000 oiled birds were treated at IBRRC’s Cordelia center after the deadly Cosco Busan oil spill. A container ship’s collision with the San Francisco Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007 caused a large spill of 54,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil that coated birds and other wildlife.
By January 2008, 1,084 oiled birds arrived at the bird center in Cordelia. At least 424 cleaned birds have been released back in the wild. Birds are being set free at Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales Bay. This at the Point Reyes National Seashore area about 40 miles north of San Francisco and at Pilar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, 25 miles south of San Francisco. Some birds are being released at Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge. Read: San Francisco Chronicle story
More than 2,500 birds died in the spill. Wildlife biologists fear that more than 20,000 birds may ultimately perish from the disaster. They believe thousands of birds landed in the oily bay and then left the area to die elsewhere. Some also may have been eaten by predators.
- Birds arrived: 1,084
- Found dead in the field: 1,858
- Died/Euthanized: 653
- Released: 421
- FDIF birds: 939 visibly oiled, 854 un-oiled and 25 unassessed. (As of 1/15/08)
Download the Bird Injury Factcheet (360 KB)
Following the spill many oiled birds were collected on the bay and on beaches stretching north up to Marin County and south along Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Surf Scoters, Scaups and Grebes seem to be the most affected by this spill. Also, two raccoons were found dead.
During the spill, the Coast Guard closed 30 beaches: Ocean Beach, Angel Island, Crissy Field, Kirby Cove, Black Sand Beach, Rodeo Beach, Fort Point, Muir Beach, Fort Baker and China Beach, Tennessee Valley, Keller Beach, Point Isabel, Ferry Point, Cesar Chavez Beach, Middle Harbor and Shimada Park. Some beaches may have been reopened. SF Chronicle spill coverage
Bunker fuel spills are extremely toxic to marine life, especially birds that float and feed through a spill. The oil inhibits the birds ability to thermo regulate and they become cold as their natural insulation in their feathers break down. The birds spend most of their time trying to preen the oil out of feathers and thus ingesting the oil. Weakened, they will often beach themselves and fall prey to predators or die from the toxic effects of oil.
IBRRC was activated immediately to search and rescue birds affected by the spill. The Bay Area based non-profit has a long history of helping oiled wildlife. The organization began in 1971 when two tankers collided in SF Bay spilling 900,000 gallons of oil. Since then the organization has become an expert in the field of wildlife search and collection, stabilization and the washing of oil from affected animals. IBRRC has worked on 150+ spills worldwide partnering with other groups to to train responders in Africa, Europe, Asia and South America.
Locally IBRRC is part of California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network. Any oiled animals will be brought to the OWCN’s San Francisco Bay Area wildlife center for treatment. The center is managed in partnership with IBRRC. It’s located near the junction of highways 80 and 680 in the Cordelia/Fairfield area.
IBRRC & San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center
4369 Cordelia Road
Fairfield, CA 94534
On Wednesday November 7, 2007 the Cosco Busan container ship side swiped one of the western anchorages of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The ship leaked bunker fuel oil after a gash was discovered in its port side. The 810-foot vessel was headed out of Oakland and bound for South Korea when it hit the bridge in heavy fog around 8:30 AM. The bridge did not suffer significant damage and traffic continued to flow on the span.
This is this worst spill in the area since 1996 when the Cape Mohican spilled 40,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay near Pier 70. The most severe spill inside the San Francisco Bay occurred in 1971 when 900,000 gallons of oil spilled after two oil tankers collided in the fog near the Golden Gate Bridge. See: IBRRC history
The largest spill in area waters happened in 1984 when the Puerto Rican, spilled 1.5 million gallons of oil in the open ocean off the Golden Gate in 1984. In contrast the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska spilled 11 million gallons of oil. Some members of the IBRRC response team spent six months helping save wildlife in that spill.
Please remember: Do not attempt to wash, feed or house oiled birds and other animals! Spilled oil is extremely toxic. The use of proper gloves and protocols must be followed to insure the safety of the public AND the animals.
IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS
Report oiled wildlife: (415) 701-2311 or (707) 207-0380 ext 110
Report oil sightings: 985-781-0804
To submit a claim for oiled property: 888-850-8486
Kyle Orr, Department of Fish and Game (916) 825-7120
Sylvia Wright, UC Davis and OWCN PIO (530) 752-7704
IBRRC is a proud member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) a legislatively mandated program within The California Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) which strives to ensure that wildlife exposed to petroleum products in the environment receive the best achievable treatment by providing access to permanent wildlife rehabilitation facilities and trained personnel for oil spill response within California.
Map (above) from California’s Fish & Game,
Office of Spill Response:
Report of Cosco Busan Oil Spill
Oil spill and icy weather in Gulf of Finland impacts thousands of rare Mute Swans and ducks
International Bird Rescue (IBR) started off its 35 year anniversary by responding to an oil spill in Estonia which oiled hundreds, possibly thousands, of seabirds and swans. As co-managers of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Emergency Relief Team (IFAW) IBR provides substantial expertise for the international team.
On January 28, an oil slick was discovered on the northeast coast of Estonia and on islands in the Gulf of Finland. Estimated at 20 tons, the oil from a yet to be determined source killed thousands of birds who winter there, and left many survivors in need of rescue. When the size and impact of the spill became apparent, the Ministry of the Environment and the Estonian Fund for Nature requested help. A week after the spill, the IFAW ER Team was mobilized and on the way to Tallinn, Estonia. Project Blue Seas from Germany and RSPCA, England are also on-site and have been incorporated into the overall response team.
Hitting the ground running, the Team evaluated what had already been done and determined the course of action necessary to coordinate the efforts of local organizations and volunteers to set up one centralized center. This would put all rescued birds in one place where the ER Team could give them the best care possible, greatly increasing their chance to survive the life-threatening ordeal.
Within 48 hours of arrival, a building in Keila, 30 minutes from Tallinn, had been set up and the first birds started arriving from several temporary centers, including the Tallinn Zoo. A modern building, loaned by the Estonian Ministry of the Environment, was quickly converted into rehabilitation rooms for the oiled birds, a wash room and a food preparation kitchen. Pools were erected and enclosed in a large tent for reconditioning the birds after cleaning. Storage tanks for oiled waste water were put on the site and a comprehensive site safety plan was developed. The Team was able to accomplish this with considerable help from the Estonian Fund for Nature and the Estonian authorities. A dozen plumbers, electricians and carpenters worked in sub-zero temperatures to get the center up and running in record time. For oiled birds, there is a very small window of time in which they can be saved.
On February 10, the center had 103 birds in care, including 22 mute swans, a species that is has “threatened status” in this part of the world. As with most oil spills in winter, rescue teams face dangerous challenges due to ice that freezes and thaws and hard to reach areas with snow over ice. Many birds, too weak to move, were freezing into ice while still alive. Amazingly, swans that had to be carefully chipped from the ice are surviving and recovering well.
The spill has covered a relatively small distance of coastline of about 18 km long, including the nearby islands, but the area is heavily utilized as a foraging area for seabirds this time of year. Rescue teams combing beaches saw approximately 50 swans that are oiled and in need of rescue. However, if oiled birds are able to fly, capture can be difficult. A boat was made available to the rescue team, but it is extremely difficult to get to the oiled birds in the icy conditions. On several occasions a team member has had to wade into freezing water waist deep to rescue to a bird.
Six days after arrival, the Team has birds stable enough to be washed. Many are very heavily oiled but they will come clean when the experts begin washing them. Swans that look black will again be snow white. After washing the birds go under dryers which dry their wet feathers while the birds preen them back into place. At this point many birds will feel quite good and will be able to feed themselves. When deemed ready, the birds will go into the outside recovery pools, where they will continue to preen and regain their waterproofing. In a week (February 17) some may even be ready for release. However, there is a serious concern that oil trapped in the ice will become a hazard to seabirds again when it begins to melt in the spring. Local volunteers are receiving training at the center to be able to help this second phase of oiled birds who will need rescue and rehabilitation.
A serious concern is that oil trapped in the ice will become a hazard to seabirds again when it begins to melt in the spring. Local volunteers are receiving training at the center to be able to help this second phase of oiled birds in need of care.
Bird affected by the spill include: Long-tailed Ducks, Mute Swans, Golden-eyes and Smews (Eurasian diving ducks).
IFAW’s Emergency Relief team includes veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators from International Bird Rescue Research Center (US) and others from around the world, including Brazil (IFAW Penguin Network and CRAM), IFAW Russia and IFAW Germany. The team is working with the Estonian Fund for Nature the Ministry of the Environment, Project Blue Seas (Germany), SEA ALARM (Netherlands and Belgium) and the RSPCA (UK), as well as local volunteers.
IFAW’s Emergency Relief (ER) Team is managed cooperatively by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) which brings over 30 years of experience responding to oiled wildlife. The team is comprised of leaders in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, biology, veterinary medicine and management who are professionals from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, South Africa, UK and USA.
Learning from Alaska
Severe weather, remote location hamper work in worst spill since Exxon Valdez
The search for oiled animals was called off in early January 2005 after most of 470,000 gallons of oil leaked from a grounded freighter into the waters off Unalaska Island. Members of the IBRRC response team were able to collect 29 birds – even though severe winter weather and the remote location hampered the search and collection of oiled animals. A stranded Malaysian cargo ship that lost power on December 8, 2004, still sits in shallow water in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The vessel has been there since it lost power and broke in half on its way to China from Tacoma, Washington with a cargo of 60,000 tons of soybeans. Oil not the only mess left by freighter According to Incident Command reports, more than 1,500 birds and five otters have found dead. Several hundred more live oiled birds were spotted, but proved to unreachable because of the remote Bering Sea location.
Totals as of Feb 2, 2005
- Captured – 29
- Cleaned and Released – 10
- Died – 19 Birds, 6 Mammals
- Carcasses – 1,503 Birds, 6 Mammals
Various experts have called the spill the worst since the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill that dumped 11 million gallons into the Prince William Sound. The ship ran aground near Valdez on Bligh Reef at 12:04 am March 24, 1989. More info on the Valdez spill
In an attempt to prevent similar accidents in the future, a new coalition of business and conservation interests announced the formation of a Shipping Safety Partnership (SSP). The oiled birds collected, included Common Murres, Crested Auklets, Horned-grebes, Pelagic Cormorants and a Long-tailed Duck. Some members of IBRRC’s oil spill reponse team left Alaska and traveled directly to a broken pipeline oil spill near Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico.
To study the impact of the spill on shorebirds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released 162 bird size blocks of wood from the grounding site the second week in January 2005. The blocks will help determine where dead birds might have drifted, said Catherine Berg, an oil spill response coordinator with the USFWS. The agency is asking that people report any ocean sightings and return any blocks found on shore.
“We’re trying to get a feel for what we may have missed,” Berg said. “It’s just not possible to search every beach where carcasses come ashore and even if could, we’d still be competing with animals that prey on oiled birds, like foxes, eagles, gulls and rats.”
At the mercy of the weather
For three weeks the weather proved to be a frustrating waiting game for IBBRC and others on scene. The cleanup and search for oiled animals was stalled by strong winds, rough seas and the remoteness of the spill. Adding to concerns: Only five hours of daylight in this area of Alaska in winter.
“We are at the mercy of the weather,” said Jay Holcomb, Executive Director of the California-based IBRRC. “As soon as there’s an opening in the storms we’ll assist wildlife officials in assessing and capturing any oiled wildlife we can find.” Holcomb said. “But it has to be safe enough for our team members to access the impacted areas.” When live birds were rescued, they were stabilized for a day or two in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Then the oiled birds were flown to Anchorage for treatment at IBRRC-managed Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC). The AWRC is an adapted warehouse that was developed after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. It is funded by the petroleum industry. Federal law requires that any oil spill response team include wildlife handlers. In past spills, animals have been hazed to keep them out of oil and IBRRC has captured and removed healthy animals to keep them clean.
Tar balls from the spill were reported on shore as far north as Makushin Bay, about 10 miles from the spill site. Oil was also spotted in Skan Bay, drifting north from the wreckage.
According to a federal hazardous materials fact sheet, the type of bunker oil on the ship is “a dense, viscous oil … (that) usually spreads into thick, dark colored slicks” when it is spilled on water.
Biologists are worried that the spill from the vessel could threaten Steller sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals and seabirds foraging in bays along the island’s west coast. This spill was not only a tragedy for wildlife but for people as well. A Coast Guard helicopter crashed trying to rescue crew members from the grounded freighter. Six people were lost at sea in the 43-degree water; the four Coast Guard members onboard survived.
The internationally recognized IBRRC has responded to more than 200 spills since its formation in 1971. On this spill, the bird rescue group is working with the oil spill response co-op Alaska Chadux Corporation.
Mystery spill leaves oily wake in Southern California
More than 1,400 birds, mainly Western Grebes, came into the San Pedro, CA center after an oil slick first struck along the Ventura and Los Angeles County coastline on January 13, 2005. As late as April 2005, a couple dozen oil covered birds were still showing up sporadically in need of attention.
A little more than 200 birds were released back into the wild. At least 300 of the birds brought to the center died or had to be euthanized.
This was the first major test of the Los Angeles area bird center. The permanent facility was built with state funds and opened in March of 2001. IBRRC manages the center for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). It operates a year-round rehabilitation program for sick and injured birds. A small dedicated staff and a large contingent of local volunteers help make the non-profit San Pedro center a valuable contribution to the local wildlife community.
The spill proved to be a stubborn mess. State Fish and Game authorities are still trying to determine the source of the oil. Early reports tied the oil in the water to the disastrous mudslide that struck the La Conchita area on January 11, 2005. The spill was originally called the Ventura mystery spill.
Feather samples from oiled birds have ruled out other sources of oil, primarily oil from platforms off Ventura and Santa Barbara coastlines. Officials think the oil may have come from a broken pipeline onshore. But that has yet to be determined. Some wildlife experts believe that a total of 3,000 to 5,000 birds will ultimately be affected by the spill. It’s the largest California spill in 15 years in terms of bird injuries and deaths. The area that was affected stretched from Santa Barbara to Playa del Rey – some 80+ miles of coastline.
The birds most affected in this spill were Clark’s Grebes, Western Grebes and Common Loons. These are mostly species that float or raft off shore where the concentration of oil seems to be heaviest. Birds that get oiled and don’t get treated quickly – face a certain death. Without attention, birds cannot thermo-regulate and usually die within days.
After birds are captured and stabilized, they are transported to the nearest full-time rehabilitation center. In this spill it is the San Pedro bird center for treatment. State officials warned the public not to approach the oiled birds, pointing out that grebes have particularly sharp beaks. They are advising people who came across the birds to call (562) 342-7222.
If you do catch the birds please put them in a big box with air holes and a towel at the bottom.
About the IBRRC/OWCN partnership:
The International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) plays two major roles within the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). First, IBRRC acts as the lead oiled bird response organization that, under the management of the OWCN, responds to most of the oil spills that affect birds, reptiles and fresh water aquatic mammals in California. Secondly, IBRRC is contracted to develop and teach a series of annual trainings for OWCN participants. These trainings are designed to familiarize members with concepts in oiled wildlife capture and rehabilitation.
Norway emergency relief and rehabilitation report from Rocknes spill
Field Report #13— Friday, February 26, 2004
The team has now fully de-mobilized from Norway. After the release of 11 Eider ducks last Friday another 11 birds were released on Saturday followed by four on Sunday. The last Mallard was then released on Monday leaving just two Eider ducks at the center. We had concerns about the last Eider ducks, one adult male and one juvenile, as they had been washed at the beginning of February and were still not waterproof despite all the supportive care from the team. The juvenile was also quite thin and underweight.
Every effort was made by the team to keep their pool water as clean as possible and to ensure they had as much access to food. On Monday after an evaluation that showed their waterproofing had improved they both went into a pool without a haul-out for the first time. Each Eider must spend at least 48 hours in a non haul-out pool before being evaluated for release.
If we needed any reminder of the importance of waterproofing to these birds, the temperature dropped to well below freezing during our final days. If we had any concerns about these birds getting wet after release it really would be cruel to let them go no matter how much we wanted to see them released. Three of our remaining five team members, Curt Clumpner, Ken Brewer and Bruce Adkins, left early on Tuesday morning, which left only Dr. Valeria Ruoppolo and myself on the ground. The center was the quietest it had ever been and the cold weather and snow continued, making it even tougher for these birds. As if they both knew this was their big chance our checks on Tuesday showed that their waterproofing was looking good. The juvenile also seemed to be eating every fish we threw into the pool and had gained considerable weight.
On Wednesday, the day we were both scheduled to leave Norway, we evaluated both birds for release and despite all the odds they passed! We drove to the North of the Island with Arnold Haaland from NNI and, for the last time, released Eiders back into the Fjords. We then packed up our remaining items back at the center, said our goodbyes and headed for the airport. The last two birds and the last two people released on the same day! This takes the total number of birds released to 81 out of 131 received at our center.
To put this into context, our team did not arrive on the ground until 5 days after the incident. Search and collection did not begin for another two days. This kind of response had also never been tried before in Norway so there was no preparedness and no understanding of what is involved in this work. This meant that much of the vital equipment we needed either had to be constructed from scratch or shipped from other countries which all took time that we did not have. In spite of all of these challenges we managed to save over 60% of the birds we received and relieve the suffering of those that were beyond saving. There is still a long way to go with this issue in Norway but we hope that this will lay the foundation for future responses and provide an interesting case study for the authorities. NNI, the environmental consultancy we have been working with, have already applied for government funding for post-release studies on the gulls and mallards released and will carry out this work with or without their support. This effort is both a credit to our team, who worked tirelessly for these animals, and the volunteers and organizations in Norway that gave up so much of their time to make this happen. They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This first step is both a positive and an important one for oiled wildlife in Norway.
Field Report #12— Friday, February 20, 2004
There are only five of our team members still here now so despite there being less birds there has been a great deal of work to share out between a small number of people, hence the lack of reports from the field! As it stands today we have 23 birds here at the center. We have been releasing eider ducks every other day for the past week and this afternoon 11 birds left the center, our biggest single release so far. We had agreed that this would be our best chance to re-ignite interest in the media and also to invite local volunteers and sponsors along to see the end result of all their hard work. The turnout from the media was excellent. All three Norwegian television stations were represented as well as the national radio station, and a number of our team were interviewed.
We are hopeful that quite a few of the remaining birds will be ready for release in the next day or two. We will also be carefully re-assessing the records and condition of the others. Some of the birds have been here for a few weeks now and are either not showing signs of improvement or have additional problems. If these animals will not fully recover and be able to thrive again in the wild then euthanasia will be the most humane solution for them now.
There is always only a small window of opportunity for oiled wildlife and here in Norway the lack of preparedness for this kind of response slowed down our efforts at the start. Many of the birds were recovered after more than a week of being oiled and were severely debilitated. This makes it much more difficult to rehabilitate them successfully.
On Tuesday a meeting took place in Bergen between the various governmental agencies responsible for wildlife and spill response to discuss the Rocknes incident. Arnold Haaland from NNI had invited them to visit our operation but we had not received a response. We were therefore taken by surprise when 7 people arrived at the center on Tuesday afternoon asking for a tour of the facilities. The group included representatives from the County GovernorÕs office, the Nature Directorate and the Coastguard.
They stayed with us for an hour and were given a thorough tour and explanation of the process for rehabilitating oiled wildlife. We were able to talk about the importance of preparedness and also about the importance of developing the skills and experience to respond to larger potential incidents in the future, including those that may have a significant conservation value where red-listed species such as Stellars Eiders may be involved.
They all seemed very interested in the work and, while convincing the authorities to change the policy on oiled wildlife will be a much longer process, we were delighted that they took advantage of the opportunity to see how this operation has been put together and to see clean, healthy, waterproof birds in the pools. Following discussions with one of the volunteers about the importance of contingency planning and preparedness, the volunteer decided to make contact with his local MP to ask if they could table a parliamentary question to the Fisheries Minister on behalf of the operation.
The question was raised in parliament on Tuesday by Audun Bjorlo Lysbakken from the Socialist Left Party. The following is the text as retrieved from the official website: ÒWhat is the Minister’s view on initiatives like Aksjon Rein Fugl (Action Clean Bird), and what is the Department’s (Fisheries) view on public funding for such actions/work, or permanent initiatives that will make such responses a permanent part of oil contingency ns/stores already in place in coastal areas
At Horsoy, on Askoy, Hordaland, a center for oiled seabirds from the Rocknes spill has been established. The project is called ÔAksjon Rein Fugl,Õ and has dealt with over 100 oiled birds. The birds are rehabilitated and cleaned for oil. The work is done by volunteers from Bergen and surrounding areas in cooperation with an international group (IFAW). The instigators believe this work (and rehabilitation of oiled seabirds) should be an important part of any contingency planning in case of oil spills along the coast. This action is financed by IFAW and volunteers. We should be releasing birds on Saturday and Sunday and also beginning to pack up much of our equipment. We have procured a great deal more during this spill that will need to be stored for future use. Thankfully, Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL), an international spill response organization based in Southampton in the UK, have agreed to store this for us, which will be a tremendous help and will greatly improve our own preparedness. Once this equipment is safely on its way, we will be too.
Field Report #10— Thursday, February 12, 2004
Today we have some really great news – the first rescued Eider Ducks have been released back into the wild!
The three Eiders were set free in a nature reserve on the island of Askoy, near Bergen, signaling the start of a series of releases of the oiled seabirds that have been cleaned and rehabilitated here at the rehabilitation center. This first release of Eiders comes after several weeks of the rescue operation and now we will be releasing birds every few days. We have now cared for more than 120 birds at the center, which is in an unused fish processing plant on the island of Askoy. When they arrive vets examine the birds and take blood samples. Typically they are suffering from hypothermia and dehydration and need to be tube fed fluids. The intricate washing process takes place after a couple of days when the birds have recovered enough strength. Finally they need to be put in recovery pools to regain their waterproofing before they can be released. It is round the clock work for the team and the many local volunteers who are helping, but itÕs all worthwhile when you see the birds released back into the wild again!
Field Report #9 — Friday, February 6, 2004
W e are making good progress. 50 birds have now been washed, 13 have already been released and there are 15 still oiled. We plan to have a final push on search and collection over the weekend and will then have a clearer idea as to how much longer the rest of the operation will take. As many of the systems are now set up and working more smoothly I wanted to take the time in this report to talk about the team we have here in Norway.
The ER oil spill team on a day-to-day basis is only a handful of people and a joint effort between International Bird Rescue Research Center and IFAW. During a response the team has the capability of expanding, calling on experience from within the two organizations and from around the world.
Many members of the team have worked together in previous incidents, for others it is the first time. We ask a great deal of everyone that we call in and they each give 200 percent to the cause.
The situations we face always bring their own challenges and even when the bird numbers do not reach the magnitude of the Treasure the lack of preparedness, such as we have faced here in Norway and in Spain can make things extremely difficult. Working in a new country our reputation does not necessarily precede us either and so we have to prove ourselves, and actions in this kind of situation speak much louder than words.
Many of you will already be very familiar with International Bird Rescue Research Center as their relationship with IFAW goes back many years. They are true leaders in this field and on a response their experience shines through.
To the uninitiated it can seem like magic; the ability to care for large numbers of animals in an emergency situation without any of the proper resources to hand. When equipment is not available alternatives are constructed using any materials that can be found. There are never any problems that cannot be overcome, everything can be worked around if you just think outside of the box. It is true flexibility and it is all to ensure the best achievable care for the animals.
Jay Holcomb and Barbara Callahan have been instrumental in setting up the center and guiding the rehabilitation effort whilst Curt Clumpner has concentrated on coordinating the search and collection, which has been so critical in this situation. The rest of the team has also been fantastic. Manja Griehl from IFAW Germany has worked tirelessly to give the best care to the oiled birds, working extremely closely with our two vets Valeria Ruoppolo from Brazil and Martin Lavoie from Quebec, Canada. Another regular team member Gary Ward, from New Zealand, has been brought in to help with washing and the waterproofing of the clean birds while Chris Battaglia, also from IBRRC, was charged with setting up the facility with pools, water systems and a reliable power supply (ably assisted by our very own Bob the Builder, Nick Jenkins!). Last but not least IBRRC responders Ken Brewer and Bruce Adkins have lent their years of experience to the search and collection effort too and have both been leading teams out on the water.
We have been very warmly received here in Norway and it is a credit to each and every one of our team, who not only know how to best take care of the animals but also how to win over and inspire the local organizations and volunteers, and establish trust and friendship under incredibly stressful circumstances. I feel extremely proud and honored to work with them all.
Spain prepares for long Prestige oil spill clean-up, more birds to be released
Dozens of rehabilitated sea birds will be returned to the wild off the coast of Spain this week thanks to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Emergency Relief (ER) team. These latest releases cap a two-month wildlife rescue and rehabilitation effort by the IFAW ER team, which collaborated closely with local authorities in responding to one of the world’s worst-ever oil spills. As the tanker Prestige sank to the sea floor off the coast of Spain last November, environmentalists prepared for a spill worse than the Exxon Valdez. Concerns grew as affected wildlife – including rare and endangered sea birds – began appearing on the beaches covered thick with oil. At the request of SEO/Birdlife, the Spanish ornithological society, the IFAW ER team quickly deployed international experts from the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) and established a rescue and rehabilitation center in Pontevedra, Spain.
Released birds include gannets, shags, cormorants, razorbills, guillemots, storm petrels, scoters, Atlantic puffins, and several species of gulls. To date, the team has successfully treated, rehabilitated and released more than 180 birds back to the wild. “We are heartened by the release of these birds, but the long-term effects of this spill could last years,” said IFAW ER team member Barbara Callahan. “Two months after the Prestige went down oiled animals are still being found each day. Along with continuing rescue and rehabilitation, we are working to assist authorities to increase local capacity during oil spills and help develop contingency plans for future impact.”
For the past several weeks the IFAW ER team has been training local volunteers and responders to take over the Pontevedra center and prepare for more oiled wildlife. Xunta, the Spanish environmental authority, plans to continue the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals as well as the tedious process of cleaning the beaches affected by the spill.
“We are very grateful to the IFAW Emergency Relief team and the many concerned individuals who have come to Spain to assist these animals,” said Vicente Piorno, Xunta Coordinator for the Center. “The unique expertise IFAW has shared with us has made a critical difference and better prepared us to handle the tasks ahead. We very much look forward to further collaboration.”
Why we’re here
First rescued birds released back to the wild
The first oiled birds rescued from the Prestige tanker disaster in Spain were released back to the wild in Portugal today, by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW — www.ifaw.org ) and the Spanish environment authority Xunta. The birds had been cared for at the main wildlife rehabilitation center for the crisis, which is being run in Pontevedra, Spain by IFAW’s Emergency Relief Team. It was necessary to release the birds in Portugal as the oil spill, the worst in Spain’s history, has affected Spain’s entire northwest coastline. Twenty-two fully rehabilitated birds were transported seven hours by truck to Bahia de Setubal in Portugal, just outside of Lisbon, where they were released into one of Portugal’s national marine reserves. The released birds included razorbills, guillemots, puffins, loons, scoters and gulls. IFAW representatives at the release were joined by Xunta’s Director General for Natural Conservation, Francisco Bobadilla, and Portugal’s Director General of the National Institute for Nature Conservation, Carlos Albuquerque.
Since the start of the crisis three weeks ago, hundreds of birds have arrived at the center covered in oil and suffering from hypothermia and dehydration. The IFAW ER Team first stabilizes the birds with fluids and food fed by tube, and once they are strong enough they are washed and dried, before being put into recovery pools to regain their waterproofing. The center is currently caring for 334 birds. The IFAW ER Team in Pontevedra has vets and wildlife rehabilitation experts from eight countries around the world and about 50 local volunteers. Jay Holcomb, the IFAW ER Team Leader, said, “This is what we have been waiting for since the first birds arrived. It is at last some good news in what has been a wildlife tragedy.
“It has been difficult to find a location where the birds could be released because the whole of the coast in this part of Spain is getting oil washed ashore. In consultation with all the Spanish experts we have chosen this area of Portugal because it already has good colonies of birds and it is not too far for us to transport them.”
Spain volunteers to the rescue?
It is hoped that many more birds can be rescued from the hundreds of small oil patches now hitting the northwest coast of Spain as an army of 3,000 volunteers arrives to help over the national holiday weekend says the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). With hundreds of kilometers of coastline to cover it is hoped that the volunteers from all over Spain will make a significant difference to the success of the search and rescue operation. The original giant slick has now broken up into countless smaller ones and these are blanketing the National Maritime Atlantic Islands Park, which is home to tens of thousands of migrating and indigenous bird species.
“We have been very concerned that although we have had hundreds of birds come to the rehabilitation center we are running, that many thousands more are out there dying and have not be found up until now because of lack of people searching,” said Jay Holcomb, leader of IFAW’s Emergency Relief Team.
“Hopefully with this massive influx of volunteers things will improve. The oil patches are now all over this marine wildlife reserve park and coming ashore in big numbers much further south, which is the most sensitive area for the birds.”
IFAW’s ER Team in cooperation with the local wildlife authority Xunta has set up the rehab center at Pontevedra. It is manned by 15 veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitation experts, who have flown in from seven countries around the world. There are also about 50 local volunteers at the center every day. The center is currently caring for 288 birds, including razor bills, gannets, cormorants, kittiwakes, and rare species such as the yellow-legged gull that is only found in Galicia.
On November 15th, 2002, IFAW’s Emergency Relief (ER) Team joined local animal groups in efforts to rescue animals oiled by the stricken Prestige tanker off the north-west coast of Spain. The ER Team’s oiled wildlife experts have been called in to assist by SEO/Birdlife Spain (Spanish Society for Ornithology) as fears grow that thousands of birds could suffer effects from the slick that has already soiled 125 miles of Spanish coastline. The team is now working closely with regional wildlife authorities and WWF Spain IFAW’s Emergency Relief Team is managed cooperatively by IFAW and the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), which brings over 30 years of experience responding to oiled wildlife. The team is comprised of leaders in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, biology, veterinary medicine and management who are professionals from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, South Africa, UK and USA.
In 2000 the team jointly led the response to the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa, with Sanccob, which was the largest of its kind. This required a three-month operation involving 12,000 volunteers and ultimately of the 20,000 oiled African penguins, 90% were released back into the wild. The IFAW ER Team has attended more than a dozen major oil spill wildlife disasters around the world in recent years. IFAW’s ER team now has such experience that it is recognized as having a global presence that supersedes other oiled wildlife response organizations. The team arrived in Spain November 21.
Nick Jenkins (IFAW) – UK Tel: 44 7799 883355; or 44 1634 830888; 44 (20) 7587 6733;
For more information visit www.ifaw.org
On the morning of September 16th 2002, Carol Frey of Auburn, California went to a local pond to feed the abandoned ducks and geese.
Instead of running to greet her as they usually did, they were either trapped on a small island, or sinking, as if they were in quicksand. The entire pond was covered with something that looked and smelled like oil. Carol quickly found a phone and reported an oil spill.
Within hours, many people and agencies came together to start rescuing the birds, determine the source of the spill and begin the clean-up. Local vets were called but most didn’t have experience with waterfowl, much less oiled waterfowl. Dr. Virgil Traynor, felt compelled to try to help. The birds were cold and dehydrated, so he administered electrolyte solutions to help stabilize them. He knew they needed to be washed, but how?
A call to IBRRC’s oil spill hotline quickly connected him with the best solution for the birds; transfer to IBRRC’s headquarters in Cordelia. Placer County’s Animal Control officer, Audra Mackay, who helped with the rescue, was more than willing to help drive the birds to the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center, about 80 miles from Auburn.
Coleen Doucette, IBRRC’s rehabilitation manager, readied the center to receive the oiled birds and began calling volunteers and additional staff to come and help. Fearing that some of the birds may have been hiding in surrounding shrubbery, IBRRC’s Chris Battaglia and Wendy Sangiacomo, headed to Auburn, where they would stay for three days rescuing the rest of the birds, as well as hazing (scaring away wild birds attempting to land on the pond). Karen Benzel fielded media calls and knowing that the birds might be homeless, began getting media support to alert the public to the birds’ plight.
Over the next several days, IBRRC staff and volunteers worked 14-hour days to intake, stabilize, medicate, feed, wash, dry and rehabilitate the 26 geese and seven ducks, in addition to caring for the many other birds at the center. One duck and two geese were so debilitated from inadequate nutrition and prior injuries that the most humane solution was to end their suffering with a painless lethal injection. The rest, although extremely malnourished, responded quickly to the nutritious grains and greens their bodies craved, and after being washed, they looked and most likely felt, like new birds.
As it turned out, the oil was actually hydraulic fluid caused due to a faulty sump pump at a county maintenance garage down the street from the pond (located on private property). The owner of the property acknowledged that the birds had been abandoned there over several years. Since he didn’t live there, he felt the best thing for the birds would be to find proper homes for them.
Because the birds were featured in television coverage by the ABC and NBC affiliates in Sacramento, as well as newspaper stories in the Sacramento Bee, The Daily Republic and the Auburn Journal, many people called offering homes. All the ducks and geese now reside on safe spacious properties with ponds and proper nutrition.
Freighter that sank in 1953 off San Francisco coast leaves tragic legacy
The Luckenbach sank 17 miles off the coast. The U.S. Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Game have identified the source of oil that has affected over 2,076 birds since Nov. 24, 2001. A submersible remotely operated vehicle collected oil from the sunken ship, SS Jacob Luckenbach, a 468-foot freighter that sank approximately 17 miles southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge on July 14, 1953. The “fingerprint” of this oil matches oil taken from tarballs and oiled feathers from the current incident. Additionally, the oil was found to match historical samples taken from past “mystery spills” in 1992-93, 1997-98, 1999, and Feb. 2001. More information about oil spills that the OWCN has responded to can be found in past newsletters. Oiled birds are being brought to the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center near Fairfield, one of the newest facilities in the OWCN.
Bird toll reaches 2120
The California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Coast Guard report that the number of oil-coated seabirds found on the coast has reached 2,120 since the first ones were spotted on Nov. 24, 2001. Birds are still be collected along the coast from Monterey to Half Moon Bay. Most of the birds affected have been common murres, birds that spend most of their time at sea, diving for food. IBRRC, which is an integral part of California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), is assisting in the search and collection as well as the treatment of birds in the Cordelia center.
Bird care as of July 30, 2002
- Live intakes – 809
- In care – 22
- Rehabilitated and released – 266
- Died/euthanized – 518
- Dead Intakes – 1311
- Total birds affected – 2120
Overview of the Galapagos Oil Spill
- The spill occured on January 16, 2001 approximately 870 yards off San Cristobal Island, one of the Galapagos Islands.
- At least 22 oiled pelicans were returned to the wild. Over 100 animals were affected during the spill.
- Nearly 200,000 gallons of diesel and bunker crude oil spilled from Ecuadorean tanker Jessica.
- Aerial surveillance showed oil slick spread intermittently in an area of 300 square miles.
- The Galapagos Islands, 600 miles west of Ecuador’s coast in the Pacific Ocean, are famous for their giant tortoises and rare species of birds and plants. The islands were the basis for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.