Once considered controversial,
and even counterproductive, the rescue and rehabilitation
of oiled wildlife can now be done so successfully that oiled
penguin rehabilitation is considered part of the conservation
management plan for endangered African penguins off the coast
of Cape Town, South Africa.
International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC),
a non-profit organization born out of a devastating spill
beneath the Golden Gate Bridge thirty years ago, has learned
that the population of penguins their team helped rescue and
treat in the summer of 2000, has already recovered to pre-spill
numbers. A recent count found 6,700 breeding pairs, with the
total population on Robben Island, the location of a major
breeding colony, numbering 20,500.
This is 1,000 more breeding pairs than last
year and proof that a species can recover when quick response
and proper procedures are followed immediately following a
spill, said Jay Holcomb, director of IBRRC and veteran
of over 100 oil spills.
We are very excited to have helped preserve
this endangered species. Working as members of the International
Fund for Animal Welfares (IFAW) Emergency Relief Team,
we were able to save 90.3% of the 20,251 oiled African penguins
treated, several thousand of which were chicks that would
have surely died.
Holcomb attributes the success of the largest
wildlife rescue effort ever undertaken to prompt action by
both Cape Town authorities and IFAW as well as the local people
and thousands of volunteers, who came from all over the world,
to help capture, wash, feed and rehabilitate over 20,000 birds.
Weve gone from saving almost no birds
in 1971 to saving over 90% of the birds rescued from the Treasure
spill in 2000. The rescue and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife
is valid and we have proven we can save a species from possible
extinction. Weve come a long way and weve done
what others said couldnt be done, said Holcomb.
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