Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘penguins’

November 22, 2011

First Penguins Released After New Zealand Oil Spill

49 Little Blue Penguins oiled in the spill from the grounded cargo ship Rena were released today in New Zealand, after rescue and rehabilitation by emergency response teams, including International Bird Rescue, organized through Massey University’s New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre.

In preparation for the release we set up three aviaries with a salt water system and gradually raised the salinity to that of seawater. We sorted the penguins into “tribes” according to their location of capture, their state of waterproofing and their estimated time until molt. We are relieved to be getting most of them out before molt. Ecologist and Dotterel expert John Dowding also performed a final evaluation of habitat to start releasing some of the Dotterels who were captured to the south. Hopefully by the time Dr Brett Gartrell, the Wildlife Centre Manager, returns in a week, we will be down to 225-250 birds in care.

Christmas is already in the air down here. Since New Zealanders don’t celebrate Thanksgiving there is nothing to stop Christmas creep. There is already talk of our Facilities Manager Bill Dwyer’s annual staff Christmas party and we are even seeing a number of posters for New Year’s events.

It’s a bit hard to get into the Christmas spirit for those of us not used to worrying about sunburn in November, but it is starting to look like we may make it home with some time left to do our Christmas shopping.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Curt Clumpner
Preparedness Director
International Bird Rescue

October 27, 2011

Sweaters on oiled penguins?

Penguins
Little Blue Penguin cared for during the Rena Spill in New Zealand, 2011. Photo: Curt Clumpner

Update, 3/6/14: Every so often, the “sweaters on oiled penguins” story resurfaces in the media. “Does this work?” invariably we’re asked about using knit sweaters to keep birds warm and to prevent the preening of oiled feathers. Here’s our answer from International Bird Rescue executive director Jay Holcomb in 2011, following the Rena Oil Spill in New Zealand that affected Little Blue Penguins. The bottom line: While cute, penguin sweaters may do more harm than good to oiled birds.

 

Many of you have probably seen articles about using specially fitted sweaters made specifically for oiled penguins. This concept has come to the forefront again because of the large number of Little Blue Penguins that have been oiled in the Rena spill in New Zealand. International Bird Rescue has worked on a number of spills with four species of penguins. Each time someone asks us why we are not putting sweaters on penguins. The answer is the same for any bird, but let’s focus on penguins right now.

The intent of the sweaters is to keep the birds warm and reduce the amount of oil that they might ingest when preening. When birds are oiled, they lose their natural ability to thermoregulate. That’s because the oil sticks birds’ down and contour feathers together, temporarily impairing the ability to use these feathers to maintain body temperature.

Additionally, there are many different types of oil, and many contain irritating and toxic components. It’s common to see skin burns and irritation on birds that have heavy oil on their feathers. The last thing we want to do is to put something over their feathers that causes the oil to be pressed against their skin, or impairs the evaporation of the aromatics put off by the oil. Penguins and other birds can also overheat very quickly, and the sweaters increase this risk.

To help the birds stay warm and limit the amount of preening, we only have to do one thing — house birds in a warm, ventilated area. When birds are warm, they reduce their preening because they’re comfortable. When they’re cold, they’re stimulated to preen in an attempt to correct the loss of body heat. Our research and experience over the course of hundreds of spills has shown us that when we keep them warm while they are still oiled, birds do well.

There’s also another hazard to the sweater concept: Any handling or wearing of anything foreign to them contributes to the penguins’ stress. Reducing stress is our biggest challenge in an oil spill. Sweaters can be cumbersome, and require a secure fit to ensure that the bird will not become entangled. When birds are kept in warm rooms without sweaters, their stress is reduced, because they do not need to be monitored or handled.

In the Treasure oil spill in 2000 in Cape Town, South Africa, International Bird Rescue worked with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to rehabilitate over 20,000 oiled African Penguins; we successfully released 95% of them. In every oil spill where we have cared for penguins, International Bird Rescue has had at least an 80% release rate, and none of these birds wore sweaters.

Our colleagues from around the world agree that penguin sweaters are adorable and offer an avenue for concerned people to contribute, but they are not considered a useful tool for the rehabilitation of oiled birds, primarily penguins.

Jay Holcomb
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

 

Photo right: One of the penguins being cared for at the wildlife rehabilitation facility set up at Tauranga. Image credit: Maritime New Zealand

October 24, 2011

Oiled Wildlife Response is a Team Sport

Little Blue Penguin on haulout in recovery pool at Rena New Zealand oil spill

Our latest update on the Rena Spill is brought to you by International Bird Rescue’s Preparedness Director, Curt Clumpner, who is on site in New Zealand working with Massey University in the role of Wildlife Center Deputy.

For those of you who don’t pay much attention to rugby “we” won the Rugby World Cup Sunday night. Much of the wildlife team watched it on one of the big screens in the hotel lobby. The wildlife team’s Kiwis and Americans all stood and sang the New Zealand national anthem (the Americans really only hummed) and cheered and groaned through a very close game, 8-7 New Zealand over France. The All-Blacks perform a ‘Haka’ at midfield facing the opposing team just before the start of each game. The ‘Haka’ is a traditional Maori war dance/challenge meant to intimidate the opponent. It is hard to describe but involves fierce faces, stomping and tongue wagging and in most cases it would cause tears in small children. It was a very exciting game even if we (the Americans) did not understand the rules very well. International Bird Rescue’s Barbara Callahan was waving her All-Blacks flag. Kerri Morgan from Massey University was pacing nervously and every so often someone in the room would yell a somewhat plaintive “come on boys”. In the end though “we” prevailed and there was much joy and relief. In my section of the hotel the neighbors were celebrating long into the night. At the wildlife center next morning there were more than a few people who seem to have developed a World Cup “flu” and it was Labor Day holiday, but we still had a good crew who got on with it.

One of the great things about going on international responses is the chance to work with different species. In this case we are working mostly with Little Blue Penguins, which I worked with 16 years ago during the Iron Baron spill in Australia, but also diving petrels, pied shags, and occasionally white-fronted terns, fluttering petrels and New Zealand Dotterels. In oiled wildlife care the principles pretty much hold true across species but the details may be different and learning the details and applying them correctly is always an interesting puzzle to work out.

It makes it much easier when the team contains members with a depth of local knowledge and experience with the species and that is one of the things that is great about the team that Maritime New Zealand and Massey University has put together. Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) (pronounced em-en-zed in this part of the world) contracts with the vet school at Massey University in Palmerston North much the same way California’s wildlife system is built around the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at UC Davis. OWCN’s Director Dr Mike Ziccardi is also here as part of the team, stepping in wherever needed from seals to dirty birds to the Incident Control Center. They have a National Response Team here that trains yearly.

Oiled Wildlife Center in New Zealand.

For New Zealand the good news/bad news is that there has not been a spill that has impacted large numbers of animals – the Rena has been called the worst environmental disaster in New Zealand history – so their one weakness is that there is not a lot of real world spill experience on the team. This is why they asked International Bird Rescue to help. We have had a strong relationship with the New Zealand program for a number of years, networking, exchanging information, collaborating on workshops at conferences and, during the Prestige spill response in Spain, bringing in Massey’s then team leader Richard Norman as part of our wildlife team to gain some real world international response experience. Two years ago I was also invited to participate as one of the instructors for yearly oiled wildlife core team training at Massey University and so already knew many of the wonderful team we are working with now.

Curt Clumpner
Preparedness Director
International Bird Rescue

Stay tuned for more updates from our team in New Zealand in the coming days

M/V Rena Live Wildlife Data as of October 24, 2011
Oiled Live Little Blue Penguins 107
Un-oiled Live Little Blue Penguins 186
NZ Dotterel 60
Pied Shag 3
White-Fronted Tern 1
Grand Total Live At Facility 357
March 22, 2011

Catastrophic South Atlantic Oil Spill Threatens Endangered Rockhopper Penguins

Hello everyone,

There has been a catastrophic oil spill on a remote island in the mid-South Atlantic Ocean that is threatening an entire colony of endangered Northern Rockhopper Penguins.

The MS Oliva ran aground on Nightingale Island, one of three islands of the Tristan da Cunha group, on March 16, 2011. All 22 crew were rescued before the ship broke up and leaked oil into the sea. The freighter was shipping soya beans from Rio de Janeiro to Singapore. It is said to be also carrying 1,650 tons of heavy crude oil.

Nightingale Island is regarded as one of the world’s most important wildlife habitats. The island is home to 40% of the world’s population of Northern Rockhopper Penguins (photo, above), and about 20,000 have already been confirmed oiled.

There are species of albatross, petrels and shearwaters that nest on these islands. However, all of the reports of oiled birds have been about the penguins. The likely reason for this is that many of the flighted bird species fly out to sea before landing on water, thereby avoiding the oil along the coastline. Since the penguins are not flighted, they have to swim through it to get to the islands, making them the most vulnerable and highly impacted.

IBRRC’s colleagues at The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) are leading bird rescue and rehabilitation efforts and will soon be en-route. You may remember that IBRRC has worked with SANCCOB in four different oil spills in Cape Town, South Africa. Most notably, in the Apollo Sea oil spill in 1995 we helped care for 10,000 oiled African Penguins, and during the 2000 Treasure oil spill we helped manage the rehabilitation of another 20,000.


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According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the current Northern Rockhopper Penguin population in the Tristan da Cunha island group is estimated 18-27,000 at Inaccessible Island, 3,200-4,500 at Tristan. Nightingale and Middle Islands were estimated to support 125,000 pairs in the 1970s, but recent observations suggest that the main colony on Nightingale has decreased in size.

Logistics are difficult at best. An old fishing factory will be used as a rehab center. There is limited water, and no airport, so supplies are either air-dropped there or are brought by ship every few months or so. All people must arrive by ship, and it takes 4 days to get there from Cape Town, South Africa. Many of the birds have been oiled for over a week, which limits their chances of survival. The birds cannot be removed from the islands and brought to the mainland due to disease transmission concerns.

IBRRC has been in touch with SANCCOB and, along with other leading international wildlife groups, is providing support by phone as their team prepares to mobilize. SANCCOB’s team will be arriving at the islands on Sunday, March 27th, and has asked IBRRC’s trained and experienced team to be prepared to offer support. There are 300 people living on Tristan Island, and 100 of them are available to help with the penguins.

This is a truly grave situation for the Rockhopper Penguin colony and the ultimate challenge for wildlife rehabilitators. SANCCOB is the most experienced penguin rehabilitation organization in the world and we have full confidence in their ability to set up the best possible program for these birds. IBRRC’s team is coming together, and will send help when asked, and continue to support the SANCCOB team as needed. We will keep you updated as we receive information.

Jay Holcomb

Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)

More information:

Atlantic oil spill threatens endangered penguins:
Seattle Times

Locals helping roundup penguins on Nightingale Island

Tristan da Cunha, the Loneliest Island on Earth

Photo: Northern Rockhopper Penguin at Berlin Zoological Garden, Germany, used by via Creative Commons

May 19, 2009

Bird deaths in Chile have scientists puzzled

Scientists in Chile are trying to unravel the mystery of dead birds including penguins and baby flamingos and a massive die off of sardines.

In the last few months, thousands of dead Humboldt and Magellanic penguins washed ashore in late March. Along with them tons of dead sardines showed up as well. The animals littered the beaches in the southern portion of Chile’s Region XI.

About the same time, further north in Chile, scientists found rare Andean flamingos had abandoned their nests leaving 2,000 unhatched chicks to die.

Some fear that global warming is the culprit and others think the cause might be overfishing, pollution and bacterial disease. In the case of the penguins, some believe they got caught in fishing boat nets – something that has been known to happen according to local authorities.

So far the three ecological events are unrelated but more study is undergoing.

Read more in the Miami Herald: The birds are dying, and no one knows why

April 10, 2009

"Penguins, Pelicans, and People" talk in Sonoma

Jay Holcomb of IBRRC will share his stories and experiences in a lecture this month that spotlights how humans are affecting two beloved species of birds: Pelicans and Penguins.

The talk will be held on Thursday, April 16 at 7:30 PM in Sonoma and is called “Penguins, Pelicans, and People.” The suggested donation for the event is $5.

It will be held at Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center: 276 E Napa St, Sonoma, CA 95476. Map

Holcomb is Executive Director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). Under his leadership the organization has responded to over 200 oil spills including the Cosco Busan spill in San Francisco Bay in 2007. The group was born out of the 1971 oil spill at the Golden Gate when volunteers cared for hundreds of oiled animals. Read Jay Holcomb’s full bio


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This lecture is a joint effort with the Sonoma Community Center and Sonomabirding.org. The monthly lectures focused on birding topics. This spring, the lectures will be the foundation for a larger set of nature-related curricula including classes, outdoor adventures and a sub-series of short seminars called “The 110 Series.”

April 2, 2009

Interview: Penguin pioneer and census taker

Nice piece in the New York Times Science Section this week with Dr. Dee Boersma, who has been studying Magellanic Penguins in Argentina since 1982.

She brings up a story that I hadn’t heard: A Japanese company went straight to the Argentine government in the 1980s and asked permission to collect penguins for the production of goods:

“We’d like a concession to harvest your penguins and turn them into oil, protein and gloves.” There was a public outcry. This was during a military dictatorship when dissidents were being thrown into the ocean from airplanes. And yet people said, “We object to having our penguins harvested.”

Boersma, a University of Washington conservation biologist, has been called the “Jane Goodall of penguins.” Dr. Boersma, 62, has spent 25 years studying penguins on one stretch of beach at Punto Tumbo, in southern Argentina.

As she says: “I’m a kind of census taker of the 200,000 breeding pairs of penguins at Punta Tombo. I track who is at home, who gets to mate, where the penguins go for the meals, their health, their behaviors.”

Read the rest of the story online

October 13, 2008

Video report on release of 373 penguins in Brazil

If you never witnessed the remarkable and heartwarming release of rehabilitated penguins, check out this video from CNN:


The Magellanic Penguins were flown on a Brazilian military C-130 Hercules transport plane. In all, 373 young penguins were rescued, rehabilitated and released last weekend after their search for food left them stranded, hundreds of miles from their usual feeding grounds.

Animal-welfare activists loaded the birds onto a Brazilian air force cargo plane and flew them 1,550 miles to the country’s southern coast, where a crowd of onlookers celebrated as the penguins marched back into the sea.

“We are overjoyed to see these penguins waddle back to the ocean and have a second chance at life,” said veterinarian Dr. Valeria Ruoppolo of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the group that oversaw the rescue.

An IFAW ER Team, along with colleagues from Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals (CRAM), Institute for Aquatic Mammals (IMA) and the environmental authority in Brazil, IBAMA, released the penguins in early October, making history as the largest group of these penguins to ever be released in Brazil at one time. All of the birds were banded with Federal bands and the Federal Banding authority, CEMAVE, came to work with the ER Team and others to learn about banding penguins.

This effort is part of The Penguin Network which partner in South America with local organizations and is co-managed by IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Read the full story on CNN.Com

October 5, 2008

Making history: 372 Penguins released in Brazil

Thanks to the combined efforts of NGOs and the Brazilian government, 372 rehabilitated juvenile Magellanic penguins this week were airlifted and the released back to the wild in southern Brazil. This was a history making release: It’s the largest group of these penguins to ever be released in this country at one time.

An IFAW ER Team, along with colleagues from Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals (CRAM), Institute for Aquatic Mammals (IMA) and the environmental authority in Brazil, IBAMA, released 372 Magellanic penguins yesterday, making history as the largest group of these penguins to ever be released in Brazil at one time. All of the birds were banded with Federal bands and the Federal Banding authority, CEMAVE, came to work with the ER Team and others to learn about banding penguins. There are still 40 birds finishing their rehabilitation that will be released in the coming days.

The stranding of the penguins, because of poor food stocks, left them in extremely poor body condition. According to penguin researcher, Dr. Dee Boersma, there is a flow of warmer water (1° C higher than normal) which has caused the juvenile penguins to keep going north, past their usual range, where they are unable to find adequate food. There is always a high mortality rate for first year birds but this increased northerly range and lack of available food had increased the normal mortality rate for this group of penguins.

This effort is part of The Penguin Network which partner in South America with local organizations and is co-managed by IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

October 1, 2008

300 penguins to be released this week in Brazil

This week more than 300 juvenile Magellanic Penguins, stranded because of inadequate food stocks, will be loaded onto a military plane and airlifted to Southern Brazil for their release back to the wild.

You can watch a video (above) of one of the project leaders, Valeria Ruoppolo, explain the process of selecting penguins that are eligible for release.

The mass stranding of the penguins left them in extremely poor body condition. According to penguin researcher, Dr. Dee Boersma, there is a flow of warmer water (1° C higher than normal) which has caused the juvenile penguins to keep going north, past their usual range, where they are unable to find adequate food. There is always a high mortality rate for first year birds but this increased northerly range and lack of available food had increased the normal mortality rate for this group of penguins.

To date, there have been almost 850 penguins collected, nearly all juveniles. The birds are coming into care in extremely poor body condition and many have died. The Brazilian Government, as well as the local NGO’s caring for the birds, asked IFAW for assistance in caring for them and two ER team members were on-site during the first weeks of this response. Many of the penguins are now ready for release and IFAW has been asked to help oversee the release evaluation, banding and transport of these animals as they prepare for release back to the wild.

This effort is part of the Penguin Network member organizations which is a partnership co-managed by IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

We also want to acknowledge the wonderful people from the Institute for Aquatic Mammals (IMA), who are doing a fabulous job and are extremely well organized.

September 17, 2008

Video report of chronic oiling of penguins in Brazil

Video report of chronic oiling of penguins in Brazil:

At least 260 live penguins are now in care. The Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals (CRAM), one of the Penguin Network member organizations which is a partnership co-managed by IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), is deploying personnel and responding with local organizations to help with oiled birds. The key institutions involved are CRAM (MO FURG); Associacao R3 Animal; CETAS-IBAMA and the local Environmental Police (Policia Militar Ambiental). This response is supported by the Petrobras’ mobile units for oiled wildlife response, through their Center for Environmental Defense (CDA – Itajaí).

And a couple of photos of cleaned penguins:

September 3, 2008

Deadly spill in Brazil: 260 penguins in care

A new oil spill along the coast of Brazil has claimed the lives of hundreds of penguins. All seem to be victims of a spill from an unidentified source. Most of the penguins found dead were in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. (Photos: CRAM/Rodolfo P. Silva)

At least 260 live penguins are now in care. The Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals (CRAM), one of the Penguin Network member organizations which is a partnership co-managed by IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), is deploying personnel and responding with local organizations to help with oiled birds. The key institutions involved are CRAM (MO FURG); Associacao R3 Animal; CETAS-IBAMA and the local Environmental Police (Policia Militar Ambiental). This response is supported by the Petrobras’ mobile units for oiled wildlife response, through their Center for Environmental Defense (CDA – Itajaí).

The responsible for the oil leak has not been found and the exact location of the spill had not been located, although it is believed to be offshore Santa Catarina.

When birds come in contact with oil, their feathers lose their ability to keep bird warm and dry. They spend more time trying to clean their feathers, ingest oil, lose strength and many will freeze to death without human intervention.

In the winter of the southern hemisphere, thousands of Magellanic penguins travel as far as Brazil. They travel north through cold ocean currents as they search for food.


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August 6, 2008

850+ stranded and hungry penguins in Brazil

You may have seen the recent articles about the juvenile Magellanic Penguins showing up on Brazilian beaches malnourished and dying. IBRRC is working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)to manage IFAW’s Penguin Network to ensure excellent care of oiled and sick penguins in South America.

To date, there have been more than 850 penguins collected, almost all juveniles. The birds are coming into care in extremely poor body condition and many have died.

There are two groups in this part of Brazil that normally work with marine mammals who have started taking these stranded penguins into care with the hope of rehabilitation and release.

•In Salvador – Bahia, NE Brazil, Instituto Mamíferos Aquáticos (IMA) has received 500+ live juvenile penguins so far. Only 2 were adults. As of 6 August 06 ≈ 300 are alive.

•In Vitória – Espírito Santo, Southeastern Brazil, Instituto Orca has received some 250+ penguins and it is believed that there are around 90 still alive.

According to penguin researcher, Dr. Dee Boersma, there is a flow of warmer water (1C higher than normal) which has caused the juvenile penguins to keep going north, past their usual range, where they are unable to find adequate food. There is always a high mortality rate for first year birds but this increased northernly range and lack of available food had increased the normal mortality rate for this group of penguins. Almost all of the penguins being found on beaches in the north of Brazil have been juveniles and since they are starving, they come into care in an extremely debilitated state.

The local groups working with penguins have utilized area pools to swim the penguins and monitor blood values of the birds. They also are using penguin feeding protocols developed by the IFAW/IBRRC team.

Also see: Penguins as Marine Sentinels by Dee Boersma

July 30, 2008

Rockhopper penguin: Before and after oiling

During the recent Syros oil spill in Argentina, we received these adorable photos of Rockhopper Penguins. On the left is a clean penguin and on the right is the Rockhopper waiting patiently for its cleaning bath (below).

Local rehabilitation teams organized by the joint efforts of IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) worked the spill in Uraguay.

More than 14,000 cubic meters of fuel oil were spilled when two tankers collided 12 miles (20 km) from the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. The Greek oil tanker Syros and Maltese-registered Sea Bird reportedly crashed into each other while trying to avoid a collision with a third vessel. The 24 mile-long spill drifted towards Buenos Aires and shortly after, oiled-covered birds began surfacing in Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina.

Yes, the oiled birds were cleaned in Dawn dishwashing liquid. We’ve found that Dawn cuts the oil from feathers without injuring the bird. IBRRC has been using donated Dawn product from Procter & Gamble for many years. See: Dark before Dawn


See an earlier post.

July 19, 2008

More cleaned birds return to wild in Uruguay

Good news following last month’s oil spill in South America: 40 cleaned penguins returned to their ocean home today off the coast of Maldonado, Uruguay. A giant petrel was released earlier in the month.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Emergency Response Team and the local group SOCOBIOMA (Society for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Maldonado), led a coalition of NGOs tasked with this oiled wildlife response in South America.

All animals are tagged with IFAW bands, which will allow veterinarians and other specialists to monitor the animals after their release. ‘The information we receive on their condition, whereabouts, or even if they are stricken by another spill will let us continue our research into relevant conservation studies with these species’ said Valeria Ruoppolo of IFAW.

Seabirds are especially vulnerable to oiling. Losing their waterproofing abilities, penguins and other birds are forced out of the chilly waters in a state of hypothermia, leading to dehydration and starvation.

More than 14,000 cubic meters of fuel oil were spilled when two tankers collided 12 miles (20 km) from the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. The Greek oil tanker Syros and Maltese-registered Sea Bird reportedly crashed into each other while trying to avoid a collision with a third vessel. The 24 mile-long spill drifted towards Buenos Aires and shortly after, oiled-covered birds began surfacing in Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina.

Other groups involved with the rescue of oiled birds affected by this spill include CRAM/MO-FURG (Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals) in Brazil, FMM (Fundacion Mundo Marino) and FPN (Fundacion Patagonia Natural) of Argentina.

‘This spill affected hundreds of birds around the region. Close to 150 Magellanic penguins, 4 Great grebes and 1 Giant petrel were cared for by IFAW and SOCOBIOMA alone. Due to the magnitude of this disaster, oiled penguins have surfaced in Brazil, where 56 Magellanic penguins are being rehabilitated by CRAM”, added Ruoppolo. ‘The 40 penguins that went back to the wild today were cleared for release after passing several physical requirements including blood tests, weight and body condition, waterproof feathers and other necessary characteristics we always take into consideration.’

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 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 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 25 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.