No new oiled wildlife found at Bay of Plenty

Press Release – Massey University

The emergency phase of the oiled wildlife recovery at the Bay of Plenty is winding down, with no more oiled birds admitted for two days to the Tauranga centre where Massey University’s specialist team and numerous volunteers are caring for over …November 4, 2011

No new oiled wildlife found at Bay of Plenty

The emergency phase of the oiled wildlife recovery at the Bay of Plenty is winding down, with no more oiled birds admitted for two days to the Tauranga centre where Massey University’s specialist team and numerous volunteers are caring for over 400 rescued penguins and sea birds.

Massey’s facility manager of the Oiled Wildlife Response centre, Dr Brett Gartrell, says the operation is now in a holding pattern to maintain the health of 402 birds in captivity until they can be released. These include 336 little blue penguins, 60 dotterels, four shags, one diving petrel and one shearwater.

The birds were oiled after the container ship Rena grounded on Astrolabe reef at the entrance to the Port of Tauranga on October 5.

Teams of volunteers supervised by the Department of Conservation to search Mount Maunganui, nearby Rabbit Island and coastal areas for oiled wildlife will wind down from today. Teams have returned empty-handed for the past two nights. But the facility is ready respond to any oiled wildlife brought in requiring treatment, says Dr Gartrell.

“Field operations are winding down now, because we’ve had no more oiled wildlife – dead or alive – coming in,” says Dr Gartrell. “We are going to hold all the wildlife we’ve rescued until the risk of further oil spills is removed,” he says.

The time frame for release of the birds is uncertain, with salvors yet to remove the remaining 358 tonnes of oil on the ship. But Dr Gartrell says they can begin releasing penguins once the oil has been removed.

Most of the penguins have been fully rehabilitated, with 209 now moved to custom-built enclosures – dubbed ‘penguin palaces’ – where the birds can swim in shallow pools, preen themselves on ledges, and shelter in specially-made plastic burrows at night.

The last of nine enclosures was being finished today, providing space for all of the birds recovering at the centre. Fifteen penguins were re-washed today, to remove remaining traces of oil preventing them from effectively preening to regain waterproof feathers.

Saturday night’s Guy Fawkes’ fireworks display – an annual event at Baypark speedway stadium next door to the oiled wildlife response centre at Te Maunga – has been cancelled by the local council this year to avoid startling and stressing the recovering birds.

Authorities are saying environmental monitoring of the impact from the Rena disaster could continue for several years, with the clean-up costs reaching $14 million already.

ENDS

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