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January 23, 2001

IBRRC sends team to Galapagos Islands

Ship's oil spill threatens many endangered species

A local organization, born out of an oil spill in San Francisco Bay that occurred January 18, 1971, is marking its 30-year anniversary by responding to a spill in one of the most environmentally critical places on earth, the Galapagos Islands.

The nonprofit International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), leading expert in the rescue and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife, is joining the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in sending teams of specialists trained in oiled wildlife rehabilitation to the Galapagos Islands, where some of the most endangered species on earth are now threatened by a massive oil spill.

“This is not how we wanted to celebrate our anniversary," said Jay Holcomb, director of IBRRC and veteran of over 100 spills, "but we have had thirty years of experience with oiled wildlife and we are confident that what we have learned will be of tremendous benefit to the victims of the Galapagos spill."

The 1971 San Francisco Bay spill, run entirely by volunteers who knew almost nothing about how to clean oiled wildlife resulted in a survival rate of only 3% of the 7,000 birds collected. In contrast, this past summer, the MV Treasure spilled 1,300 tons of bunker oil off the coast of South Africa, threatening one of the largest colonies of African Penguins in the world. IBRRC's response team was immediately mobilized by IFAW to direct the rehabilitation effort of over 20,000 oiled penguins. Over 90% of the oiled birds were rehabilitated and released.

IBRRC founder, Alice Berkner, said she is saddened by the Galapagos spill, but feels that as long as oil is transported on water, IBRRC will continue to respond to spills. "I am comforted to know that IBRRC has developed oiled bird cleaning techniques to the point that we can save many of the birds affected by the spill."

IBRRC is part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, (OWCN) a legislatively mandated program within The California Department of Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR).

In February 2001, IBRRC will open an 18,000 square-foot facility, in Cordelia, California. The San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center will be IBRRC's new headquarters and will house their local education program and ongoing aquatic bird and mammal rehabilitation program.

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Media contact:

Karen Benzel

Office: (831) 622-7588

E-mail: karen@ibrrc.org


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