Penguins and many other birds survive oil spill
This is the first update on the Patagonian Mystery Spill in Argentina since myself and other IFAW staff arrived to help with oiled wildlife rehabilitation.
The initial search and rescue and critical care of animals following the oil spill was organized by IFAW ER veterinarian Valeria Ruoppolo and Carla Poleschi from the Fundacion Patagonia Natural (FPN). FPN asked IFAW to help with the situation in Argentina given our previous success in Latin America with oiled wildlife rehabilitation and release. Since the spill, a small trained team and about 100 volunteers have been working to set up a clinic and have been providing initial critical care to birds which is vital before any washing of oil begins.
The clinic is relatively small, but provides enough space for about 150 birds inside and over 200 penguins outside. The IFAW team in Latin America has a "go kit" of oiled wildlife supplies available for travel at any point in time. So as long as ample space is found that can provide a good source of water and draining, out comes the technical equipment that can turn a hole in the wall into a proper oiled wildlife rehab and washing center!
I arrived on Friday with a team of 6 others; two expert rehabbers from IFAW's partner the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) Jay Holcomb and Michelle Bellizzi, ER Responder Gail A'Brunzo, veterinarian Elvira von Schenk from IFAW's Germany office, and Laura Barcelo and Yeray Seminario who were both interns at IBRRC.
Each of us on our first day jumped right in, hoping we would be able to complete the required daily routines of care and intake so that the health of the birds would improve and they could soon be washed. Our day started at 7am and ended at 8:30pm (Dinner was at 10pm so really our day ended at midnight following discussions and emails). The sun in Argentina doesn't actually set until 11pm, which is really nice on one hand b/c we have bright day light during the day to keep us going and awake, but not so good on the other hand b/c it's easy for forget how late it really is and remember that we need sleep before starting early again the next morning. At 7:30pm yesterday it felt like it was 2:00 in the afternoon!
As we make it through the weekend our goal is to have all birds, except for the penguins (because they are much stronger than other birds), washed and to have all pool systems set up. All this assuming there are no other oiled birds out there that have yet to be rescued. Either today or tomorrow Valeria will visit the spill site with local government and FPN to explore the area considering we are still getting reports of oil surfacing on the beach.
I will keep you posted as the rehabilitation continues!