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November 23, 2001

Bird rescue team responds

Hundreds of seabirds affected in German oil spill

A team from the US-based International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) has arrived at the Westkuestenpark, in St. Peter Ording where hundreds of sea birds are being treated for oil contamination.

A freighter, leaking 2.8 tons waste fuel off the coast of northwest Germany in the region of West Holstein is affecting the area’s sea birds, including red-throated loons, common eiders and common scoters, many of which have died from the spill. Hundreds more are being rescued and treated at a new rehabilitation center, which was still in the final stages of construction, purposely built by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to treat oiled birds.

The rescue and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife in Germany is a recent development, as thousands of oiled birds in a prior spill in this area (Pallas, 1998), were ordered shot or clubbed to death because German wildlife authorities did not believe oiled birds could be saved.

IBRRC, whose oil response team has treated as many as 20,000 oiled birds at one time, has achieved success rates as high as 90% when allowed to respond to oiled wildlife immediately after spills.

After the Pallas spill in 1998, IFAW funded $350,000 to Westkustenpark, a wildlife sanctuary in St. Peter Ording in Schleswig-Holstein to build an oiled wildlife rehabilitation center. The area, which includes many islands and salt marshes, is an important migratory stop and breeding ground for seabirds and is constantly threatened by pollution from spills and discharge from the many rivers
flowing into it.

There has been a proposal to designate the Wadden Sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), which would allow stricter regulation of ship routing and waste discharge. IBRRC, a non-profit organization headquartered in California, is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of birds affected by oil spills around the world.

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Media contact:

Karen Benzel

Office: (831) 622-7588

E-mail: karen@ibrrc.org


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