Oil of Plenty : Rare Birds In Hundreds Die ( Rena)

It is really shocking – they don’t look like birds’

October 2011: Forest & Bird’s Seabird Conservation Advocate Karen Baird
is used to seeing petrels and shearwaters skimming over the waves at sea, rather
than having to identify their dead bodies encased in black tar-like lumps of
oil.

Karen has been working in conservation for about 25 years and has never
before been involved in a similar operation to New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty oil
spill disaster.

Since the disaster unfolded, some of her work has been at the Oiled Wildlife
Response Centre in Mt Maunganui, identifying dead birds that have been washed
ashore in the Bay of Plenty .

‘You find half a dozen stuck together in a tar-like
mess’
‘When you start doing this work, it is really shocking, they
don’t look like birds, they are totally covered in oil.
‘They are brought
into the centre in bags and you might find half a dozen stuck together in a
tar-like mess.’

But Karen realises the identification work she and other scientists have been
doing is essential to try to gauge the impact of the Rena oil spill and its
likely long-term effects.

‘From a conservation point of view, it is important to have an idea of how
many birds of a particular species died, especially for some of the more
endangered ones,’ she said.

The impact will be felt for several years
‘We know where
the breeding colonies are, so it will be important to check the colonies of some
of the worst affected species.’
The impact of the oil spill is likely to be
felt well into the future.

‘Many birds from the species that are breeding locally will lose this
breeding season and there is the potential to lose next season as well, because
some surviving birds are likely to remain in poor health or have damaged
breeding ability.’

The dead birds brought into the Oiled Wildlife Response Centre are the tip of
the iceberg. Most of the birds that got covered in oil had probably sunk,
disappearing from sight for ever, she said.

Many birds are drowned, others die of cold
So far more
than 900 dead birds had been identified, comprising 23 species. These included
458 diving petrels, 198 fluttering shearwaters, 92 Buller’s shearwaters, 38
white-faced storm petrels and 20 little blue penguins.

Many are likely to have died by drowning, while others probably were killed
by cold after the protective waterproof coating on their feathers was stripped
away by the fuel oil.

Among the victims of the spill, there have been some surprises. The species
have included mottled petrels, blue petrels and Antarctic prions, which are
rarely found in the Bay of Plenty area.

The response centre is treating about 100 live birds and looking after three
penguin chicks and three seals. There are also 13 unharmed New Zealand dotterels
being held in a temporary aviary after being taken off their beaches after the
oil pollution spread east along the Bay of Plenty coast. New Zealand dotterels
are endangered, with only 1,500 birds known to exist. Some of their main
habitats are found along the Bay of Plenty coast.

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/rena-birds.html#cr

Photo: WN

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~ by narhvalur on October 27, 2011.

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