Oiled NZ penguins a 'bad sign' says vet
Fri, 07 Oct 2011 10:42p.m.
A New Zealand veterinarian nursing oil-drenched
penguins in Tauranga says finding two birds so soon after the container
ship ran aground is a major worry.
Two blue penguins washed up on
Bay of Plenty beaches on Friday, less than three days after container
ship Rena started leaking fuel oil when she struck Astrolabe Reef.
"To be getting oiled birds this early on in a spill is a very bad sign," says Wildlife Response Centre director Brett Gartrell.
"We have a minimumnumber of animals we are expecting to deal with, but I expect this to grow."
Early estimates predict the slick will affect hundreds of birds.
Mr Gartrell fears the Te Maunga centre's 500 oiled-bird capacity may be tested and is calling for more resources.
The penguins had heavy oil over their heads, chest and feathers.
penguins lost their waterproofing and more importantly their ability to
swim... Some birds will die immediately or within hours of being
Mr Gartrell says the penguins had also swallowed some of the oil which is toxic to the animal's organs and can cause death.
It will take five to seven days to see if they have had a toxic reaction. ondc
the birds become oiled Mr Gartrell says there is a limited amount of
time before they become hypothermic and vulnerable to predators.
Finding them and getting them straight to the treatment centre is essential.
"At this stage the penguins are stable and fighting, which is a good sign."
The penguins are being being fed by a tube into their stomachs, then washed with canola oil in warm water, he says.
Four seabirds have also been found dead and two shags oiled.
WWF New Zealand says dolphins, whales, fish and birds live in the area and could face issues for years because of oil.
is advocating for stronger regulations to reduce the risk of oil spills
happening in the first place, with laws in place protecting marine
resources and the ocean environment as a whole," its marine program
manager Rebecca Bird says.
Now the priority needs to be preventing
the vessel from breaking up and leaking its 1700 tonnes of fuel -
creating New Zealand's largest oil spill, she says.
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