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November 18, 2005

Chilean oil spill

Victims of tanker spill off north coast of Chile include penguins and pelicans

Antofagasta, Chile

Photo of oiled pelican

Oiled Peruvian pelican

L ocal fisherman and wildlife along the northern coast of Chile continue to be impacted by oil from a recent spill. On November 1, 2005 a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship (Eider) ran aground near Antofagasta, spilling heavy bunker fuel and fouling over 7 km of Chilean coastline. Wildlife rescue professionals from International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) are helping treat the avian spill victims which include Peruvian Pelicans and Humboldt penguins. Thirteen rare green sea turtles were captured and relocated before they were harmed.

Doctor Carlos Guerra, who teaches at the University of Antofagasta, said oil installations along the coastline represent a new threat to Chile’s coastal waters. Chilean legislators have called upon the government to declare the affected coastline a catastrophe area. At the request of Dr. Guerra, oiled wildlife responders from the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Emergency Relief (ER) Team arrived to help University staff and volunteers capture and clean animals affected by the spill.

The ER team is comprised of Spanish speaking responders including: IFAW Penguin Network Coordinator, Valeria Ruoppolo and IBRRC intern Jose Maria Barredo, who is in training at IBRRC’s Northern California facility.

Many times IBRRC interns learn oil spill work first hand. “This is what they train us to do, and getting to actually work as part of the IBRRC response team in an actual spill is the best learning experience I can have”, said Barredo, who is from Mexico.

Photo Jose Barredo

IBRRC intern Jose Maria Barredo
works in Chile.

As of November 15, 2005 animals in care at the University of Antofagasta Wildlife Center included 20 Peruvian pelicans (Pelecanus thagus), one Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) and two Franklin's gulls (Larus pipixcan). Since the spill, one gull died in care. One penguin was dead on arrival.

The ER Team members are working with University staff and volunteers to provide guidance and training on oiled wildlife response management, care of oiled animals and development of the washing and reconditioning systems.

IBRRC co-manages the IFAW Emergency Relief Team (ER) - Oiled Wildlife Division which responds to oiled wildlife around the world and provides training and other services related to oiled wildlife. A cornerstone of this program is increasing local capacity, by training local staff and volunteers prior to and during responses.

IBRRC has long been committed to advancing the field of oiled wildlife response and as part of that commitment operates an international internship program that trains individuals from other counties in all aspects of oiled wildlife response. These interns are often become part of the international response team after their training.

For more information about IBRRC and their programs visit www.ibrrc.org.

For information about IFAW’s Emergency Relief program visit www.ifaw.org.

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