The wildlife response teams working in Patagonia released the first 30 penguins washed of oil today.
“It was very emotional for volunteers and all other groups involved. About 50 or so should be ready on Saturday, said Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director. “There are about 190 penguins left so we are beginning to see the end.”
More than 400 birds including penguins, grebes, cormorants and steamer ducks have been treated at the makeshift oiled bird rehabilitation center along the Patagonia coast in southern Argentina.
A spill occurred on December 27, 2007 at a oil tanker loading facility. An unknown amount of oil spilled over a four kilometer area. The team is still seeing slicks of oil come ashore.
Direct from Patagonia, Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director, sent this latest update on the Argentina oil spill response:
Today we finished washing most of the birds accept about 8 of the last penguins. We also washed the 4 new oiled cormorants and 5 rewash cormorants that still had wet underwings meaning that they likely have oil on them. So, other than a bird here and there we are more or less shutting down the wash room for daily activity.
We released 6 steamer ducks at a perfect place where they joined about 80 others. We also released 18 cormorants at the same place and they did equally well.
We then began go grade (check for waterproofing) the first group of penguins for release. We approved 22 penguins that will be released tomorrow and early in the morning we are evaluating another 50 or so. All penguins have been put on a very aggressive swimming schedule that will help them become waterproof asap.
We only have 7 grebes left and will reevaluate them on Friday. We have a total of 9 cormorants and will evaluate them on Sunday or Monday since they were just washed today. We have 3 ducks. One is in treatment for a swollen wing but the other 2 are still wet on their stomachs and they will also evaluated in a few days.
I forgot to mention that another very large slick came to shore yesterday and that was quite discouraging to us. There are more oiled cormorants and an occasional oiled bird here and there. Not sure what will happen after we leave as we made an internal agreement to get the other birds out before we leave and just leave penguins.
Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director, who is in Argentina, sent this update from Patagonia oil spill response this evening:
We established today as a big major penguin washing day so that we can wrap this spill up. With water issues and other problems we have only been able to wash a total of 25 or so penguins a day and we really wanted to do 30 to 40 a day. A few days ago we decided that we would do a long wash day and intend to do 50 to 60 penguins. That only leaves 30 or so oiled penguins left to wash and 10 of those are the weak ones that will go through the process once they are approved. So, today we washed a total of 50 Penguins leaving only 35 left to do and 5 of those are going to wait so only 30 to wash tomorrow.
Tomorrow we are re-evaluating all 29 King Cormorants and intend to release as many as possible the next day. We know a few have oil under their wings and have to be rewashed.
We are also re-evaluating the steamer ducks. We know 2 have to stay back because of problems but maybe the rest can go. Sergio and I worked a long time on getting them to feed and now the eat real well. We hung tarps on the pools so they are not very stressed during the day so that has improved life for them and they actually started eating when I was in the cage today.
We released another 12 Great Grebes today. They are some of the meanest birds I have ever cared for but one of the most exquisite looking birds. We only have 10 left so I am happy. I have been very stressed with dealing with the aggression and they have managed to kill a few of their pool mates and scalp some others. I have a pool of 3 scalped ones that need to start to grow feathers in by next week. Their waterproofing has been flawless from day one and that is amazing since I have NEVER cleaned their cages. There is no way to do that because it water is so cloudy. You cannot see the bottom and they eat the fish that falls on the bottom. This waterproofing is one of the things that has worked out for them and it is because Rudolpho set us such a brilliant system. Many of the keep sores have resolved and that is amazing also. Great birds and maybe the desert air, soft water and the type of fish they eat combine to make a good pool environment. Who knows?
The penguins are doing well, eating a lot and swimming increasing amounts every day and we will start to evaluate the first bunch of them for release starting Wed at the latest.
Some oil got stirred up from somewhere in the local harbor and today we heard there was an oiled cormorant on the breakwater about 4 blocks from here where some sea lions hang out. We are in the backside of a small fishing village and the ladies at the local school provide us with lunch every day so we walk or drive there to eat. Anyway, Valeria and I were going to lunch and went to check out the cormorant and within a half an hour I captured 3 very oiled cormorants and had a few close encounters with the sea lions. Another cormorant swam away but one of the local guys caught it later. So, we now have 4 new oiled cormorants. The good thing is that they are very healthy and we will probably be able to wash them on Wednesday and get them through the system quickly. It is disturbing as there is oil all over the rocks and beaches and they stopped clean up. All the locals are very unhappy.
We also got an oiled South American Tern in that is missing feathers on one wing and will go to Patagonia Natural’s rehab program in Punta Tumbo until it gets it molts and gets new feathers.
There was mui dramatico incident yesterday as Valeria would call it. Some of the fisherman staged a demonstration that they call a manifestation and blocked our road and the main road a few killometers from here. They burnt tires and were loud but peaceful to us. They let us through after the locals told them to not bother the volunteers and all the various bird rehab people like us so we all left at the same time and they passed us through the road block. That was good. Once again they were saying that the penguins are more important than them, etc. and they were making a point to the local government. They made the front page of the local paper but were gone today.
That is really about it for now. I have been sending pictures for the web site and you can see them there. We explained to everyone here that we have 10 days left for us to get the small birds released and get the penguins started on their release and then leave the remaining penguins in the capable hands of the people from Patagonia Natural and the guys from Cabo Vergines, where we worked last year. They will take charge of seeing the remaining penguins out the door.
The first bunch of grebes cleaned of oil at the Patagonia mystery spill in Argentina were released this week.
In all, 14 Great Grebes were set free into the wild. At least 50 volunteers showed up to celebrate the release. They have been working with the IBRRC/IFAW response team to help remove the oil from the bird’s feathers following the December 26, 2007 spill.
According to IBRRC’s Executive Director, Jay Holcomb who has been working on the spill for 10 days: “Lots of tears and thank yous…They lost over 200 grebes. There are about 38 more grebes left at the center. We think most will be released in a few days.” See Argentina IBRRC’s spill response web page
Update from Barbara Callahan, who is helping manage the oil spill response in Patagonia, Argentina:
After a long and difficult two days, the second wave of team members, including Jay Holcomb and Michelle Bellizzi from IBRRC in California, finally on the ground after arriving at almost midnight Thursday night. The team doesn’t have luggage but are hopeful that it will be delivered directly to the hotel sometime today.
Currently, there are 367 live birds in-house comprised of 234 Magellanic penguins, 30 cormorants, 10 steamer ducks and 67 grebes. The new admits to the hospital have slowed considerably which has allowed the team to concentrate their efforts on providing full medical exams on every bird as well as successfully begin to move the healthiest birds through the washing process. It’s always a very positive change during a spill response when the first clean birds are in pools and beginning to waterproof.
At the command center briefing today, Valeria Ruoppolo, Penguin Network veterinarian, reports that the only really positive thing is the wildlife response and the Government is very pleased to see the animals being cared for and staff and volunteers being trained. Unfortunately, they believe there is still mobilized oil on the water and that could oil new birds.
On another positive note, the Government from the Santa Cruz region has sent 6 of their staff to assist the team on the ground in Comodoro Rivadavia. These staff members have all worked with the IFAW ER Team during the Cabo Virgenes spill in 2006 so they bring good skills to the mix and this collaboration will continue their training to increase local capacity.
– Barbara Callahan, IBRRC Director of Response Services & IFAW ER Manager – Oiled Wildlife Division
Photos above: Great Grebe; penguins after feeding.
Funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and co-managed by the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), the Emergency Response team works together to response to oil spills worldwide.
The local government in Patagonia has formally accused four oil companies for complicity in the oil spill off the coast of Chubut, Argentina that oiled hundreds of birds and damaged the ecosystem along a four kilometer coastline.
Before the local court, the Chubut province government named Terminales Maritimas Patagonias, (Termap), which operates an offshore oil loading platform north of Comodoro Rivadavia where the spill originally occurred. Other companies include: Repsol-YPF, Sociedad Internacional Petrolera (Sipetrol, from Chile) and Pan American Energy Iberica that jointly hold the majority package of Termap.
Local authorities suspect the oil spill occurred on December 27, 2007 when oil was being loaded on a tanker. The first signs of the spill were discovered by residents from Caleta Córdoba, a small fishing village.
An oil spill of unknown origin is causing great harm to at least 430 seabirds along Argentina’s Patagonia coastline. A team from International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is responding to this remote location.
The total number of oiled animals currently in care is 430 and includes 20 steamer ducks, 200 Magellanic penguins, 180 silvery and crested grebes, 41 cormorants. The steamer ducks and Magellanic penguins are the highest conservation priority as they’re both listed as near threatened by Birdlife International.
The spill happened on December 26, 2007 in the province of Chubut, a oil producing region along the southern coast of Patagonia. The Incident name is “Patagonia Argentina Mystery Oil Spill.”
IFAW’s Emergency Relief Team is managed cooperatively by IFAW and the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) which brings over 35 years of experience responding to oiled wildlife. The team is comprised of leaders in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, biology, veterinary medicine and management.
In addition to responding to oil spills around the world, International Bird Rescue staff work to care for birds impacted by lesser known threats like natural oil seeps under the ocean, algal blooms, marine debris, and extreme weather. We use this blog to share stories from the field and from the two California-based bird rescue centers we manage. We hope you enjoy this window into our world—we are truly passionate about caring for birds, and know that our community shares this passion. We could not do this important work without your ongoing support!