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Shiver was one of the first swans released back into the wild following the rescue and rehabilitation operation of IFAW’s Emergency Relief (ER) team, who had been called in to help by the Estonian Environment Ministry.
“Shiver’s feet and lower body were frozen solid into the ice and she would have died very quickly if the rescue team had not found her and cut her out with an ice pick. It is a remarkable escape and even more incredible that it has been possible to get this swan back to full health at the rehabilitation centre,” said Dr Ian Robinson, IFAW’s ER Team Manager.
“To see her and the other swans released was great, particularly after such a wildlife tragedy that may have killed up to 10,000 birds. It once again underlines the need for governments to do more to stop illegal oil dumping by ships around the world. Hopefully IFAW’s work helps to focus attention on this issue and the fact that every year hundreds of thousands of birds are killed by such illegal oil spills.”
Shiver was one of 13 mute swans set free on the Poosaspea Cape, a site safely away from the oiled coastline. The release of 16 additional swans and several ducks is planned once the birds have been cleaned and rehabilitated at the center in Keila, 30 kms (18 miles) south of the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
On arrival at the centre all of the rescued birds undergo blood tests and medical treatment by veterinarians. Most suffer from hypothermia and dehydration. The birds are tube fed fluids until strong enough to undergo a specialized washing process. After the birds are cleaned they are placed into recovery pools before being released back into the wild.
The Estonian oil spill was discovered in late January when swans and ducks covered in oil were found on beaches. About 3,000 dead birds and 500 live birds have been recovered from the spill. Most oiled birds had little chance of survival due to exposure to severe cold. Remarkably, all but one of the rescued swans has survived.
Estonian authorities have coordinated their response with IFAW’s ER Team, Estonian Fund for Nature, RSPCA and Sea Alarm Foundation. The groups set up the wildlife hospital and organized search and collection activities.
Robinson added: “This response has also provided us with a chance to train Estonian Ministry of the Environment staff, members of the Estonian Fund for Nature and other local volunteers so that they can help the wildlife at any future oil spills here.”
It is still unclear which ship was responsible for the spill. Authorities have recovered eight tons of oil but it is not known how much more is trapped under the ice or has sunk to the seabed.