IFAW Sends International Response Team to Rescue Some of the World's Rarest Wildlife from Oil Spill

Monday, January 22, 2001
London, United Kingdom
The International Fund for Animal Welfare's Emergency Relief Team (IFAW) has responded to a request for help from the Charles Darwin Research Centre to contain the oil spillage that threatens to devastate the unique wildlife sanctuary of the Galapagos islands. According to reports sent to IFAW by the Charles Darwin Research Station, 30 pelicans, 7 blue-footed boobies, and two sea-lions have already been affected by the oil.
IFAW formed its specialist international oiled wildlife team, headed by Jay Holcomb of the International Bird Rescue Research Centre (IBRRC), to be a hands-on disaster unit prepared to travel immediately to assist countries and their conservation organisations when big spills occur. Holcomb, with 30 years experience in oil spills like the Exxon Valdez, heads a team whose members consist of on-the-ground workers who are world specialists in the rehabilitation of oiled wildlife. These oiled-wildlife experts will be accompanied by a senior team including two specialist veterinarians experienced in oiled bird and mammal emergencies. This hands-on unit will be assisted by an IFAW logistics and communications team, who will arrive in the area to set up on Tuesday.

Jay Holcomb said: "Thankfully we have worked with many of the species that may be affected by this spill, so we know what their needs are. Our first priority is to collect them and keep them quiet, warm and safe. Once they are stable we will proceed with washing and rehabilitation. Like people, animals in distress must be given emergency care before being washed."

Sarah Scarth, Head of IFAW's Emergency Relief team said today: "The Galapagos are rightly considered one of the worlds most precious and fragile habitats for a wide range of endangered species. We have lost no time in mobilising our team. They are now en-route to the Island and will be working round-the-clock to deal with the number of animals that may be affected by this avoidable disaster."

"Most recent reports suggest that the oil slick is growing, and now placing other smaller islands like Santa Fe at risk."

The damaged vessel, the Ecuadorian registered 'Jessica', ran aground near the archipelago's main port, on the easternmost island, San Cristobal. The vessel was transporting 900,000 litres (240,000 gallons) of diesel and bunker, a heavy fuel used by tour boats that operate in the Galapagos, with about 144,000 already spilling into the sea. Officials say that they have recovered at least 76,000 litres.

The team will work closely with the Charles Darwin Research Station and local groups on the ground. One of its first tasks will be to set up a rehabilitation centre on San Cristobal - the main island affected.

In the past year the International team has dealt with devastating oil spills in France (the Erika) and in Cape Town (the MV Treasure), where as many as 18,000 endangered African penguins were saved in a mammoth three-month effort following a huge oil spill in Table Bay.

IFAW is on the scene at the request of the Charles Darwin Research Institute and the International Bird Rescue and Research Center, helping to save Galapagos wildlife.

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