Posts Tagged ‘donate to save oiled penguins’

Well, it’s been a while since my last post – work-related travel and several other projects have kept me extremely busy since my last report on the oil spill at the Tristan da Cunha island group. While I sorely wish I had better news to report regarding the valiant efforts to save the Rockhopper penguins oiled in the MS Oliva oil spill on March 16th, the painful reality is that a very large number of the affected birds have died.


What’s even more difficult to accept is the fact that these majestic seabirds didn’t have to die. We currently have the means and the expertise to save oiled penguins – however it was impossible to get experienced rescuers or needed supplies to this remote location in time to save these birds. But it shouldn’t be that way.

Oiled and ailing Rockhopper penguins in truck. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSPB

Oiled and ailing Rockhopper penguins in truck. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSPB

While the crew and owners of ships are ultimately responsible for ensuring the safe navigation of their vessels, wherever shipping lanes pass close to sensitive wildlife areas, we must be better prepared to deal with potential oil spills and the ensuing animal rescues. There should be established rescue facilities with trained staff at the ready to respond whenever an oil spill occurs. And I believe the onus should be on the shipping companies to pay for these facilities, the supplies and the staffing. After all, these are the parties responsible for oiling accidents – and the ones guilty of causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of animals and the destruction of marine environments worldwide. The system is currently broken. And as long as petroleum-fueled vessels ply our oceans, we must have better systems in place to deal with these (often preventable) disasters.

Child feeding Rockhopper penguins at rehab site at Tristan da Cunha. Photo by Tina Glass

Child feeding Rockhopper penguins at rehabilitation site at Tristan da Cunha. Photo by Tina Glass

The Rockhopper rescue at Tristan da Cunha is not yet completed. About 300 penguins, still undergoing rehabilitation, still linger at the three rehabilitation sites. A small number of islanders continue to work around the clock to save these ailing birds. On May 21st, 25 penguins were released, and on May 31st, another 120 birds were liberated from their pens on East Beach. A May 12th article from BirdLife International reports that there has been an 88% mortality rate for the birds that were rescued. (See the BirdLife article here: Gaining weight, but not yet waterproof: penguins still need care.) If this figure is accurate, this is truly a tragic and preventable debacle. Eighty-eight percent should have been – and could have been – the success rate, not the mortality rate. Please do not misinterpret my words as a reflection on the islanders and rescuers who went to help them deal with this unexpected disaster. They did everything in their power to save the oiled birds, and it is clearly not their fault that this rescue effort was not more successful. It is due to many circumstances far beyond their control. Which is why the current system needs to change.

Release of 25 Rockhopper penguins on May 21st. Photo by Marina Burns

Release of 25 Rockhopper penguins on May 21st. Photo by Marina Burns

It has been reported that the ship’s insurers will be paying for the penguin rescue effort and environmental clean-up. But that is not enough. Future long-term monitoring of the Endangered Northern Rockhopper penguin population at Tristan da Cunah will be necessary to determine the full impact of this oil spill. And this important conservation project will not be funded by the ship’s owners or insurers. These types of follow-up studies are essential for providing supporting evidence when trying to get new laws passed or protected areas established near sensitive wildlife areas. If you care about these beautiful birds and want to do something to help ensure their future survival, please donate generously to one of the rescue funds established in response to the MS Oliva oil spill. (See a list of these groups below.)

Thank you,

Dyan deNapoli – The Penguin Lady (www.thepenguinlady.com)

The Ocean Doctor (Dr. David Guggenheim)http://oceandoctor.org/ (Click on the green ‘donate now’ button in the right-hand column.) Or go to this link:Nightingale Island Disaster Penguin and Seabird Rescue Fund

Royal Society for the Protection of BirdsNightingale Island Emergency Appeal

Foundation for Antarctic ResearchCatastrophic Oil Spill – Tristan


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There has not been much news coming out of Tristan over the last few days. I imagine this is due to rescuers working non-stop on the creation of a temporary rehabilitation facility on the main island (Tristan da Cunha). Once the ship from Cape Town arrived last Tuesday, the rescue team from South Africa immediately set about preparing this center and triaging thousands of oiled penguins. This team brings with them a great deal of experience managing large-scale penguin and seabird rescue operations (including the Apollo Sea, Cordigliera, and Treasure oil spill rescues). So, for today, I am taking the following news directly from the official Tristan da Cunha website. This is their most recent report, which was posted last Wednesday, April 6th.

Wednesday 6th April Report from RSPB Project Officer Katrine Herian – Tug Singapore unloads

On the afternoon of Tuesday 5 th April, after seven days at sea on board the support tug Svitzer Singapore, the SANCCOB team were able to get ashore at Tristan while offloading began of the specialist equipment and materials needed for washing the penguins. Vital vitamins and medicines also came ashore and these were already being put to use in the rehab centre’s intensive care unit later than evening. Venessa Strauss, CEO at SANCCOB (The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) reported the team were relieved to get ashore, as bad weather had kept them on board the tug Singapore one extra day which had been very frustrating. Offloading SANCCOB’s equipment from the “Svitzer Singapore” continued throughout Wednesday, and weather permitting should be completed on Thursday 7 th April.

Svitzer Singapore, the tug from Cape Town, unloading at Tristan on April 5, 2011. Photo by Katrien Herian

The Svitzer Singapore (the tug from Cape Town) unloading at Tristan on April 5th. Photo by Katrine Herian

SANCCOB Team impressed with Tristan rehabilitation effort

This morning the five members of the SANCCOB team including Veterinarian Tertius Gous, met many of the islanders involved in the rehab operation as they started their daily shift tubing and feeding the penguins. The SANCCOB team were impressed with the set up at the rehab centre and praised the islanders’ efforts under difficult conditions and with very limited resources. It is now two weeks since the first oiled penguins arrived at the rehab centre, and three weeks since the OLIVA grounded on Nightingale Island.

Environmental Advisor and former SANCCOB Centre Manager, Estelle van der Merwe, watches as volunteers feed the penguins. Photo by Tina Glass

Environmental Advisor and former SANCCOB Centre Manager, Estelle van der Merwe, watches as volunteers feed the penguins. Photo by Tina Glass

Cleaning operation planned

Today work began on installing specialist equipment at the wash-bay facility which will be housed in two government containers close to the rehab shed. Here hot water geysers will be installed for the penguin-washing operation (to remove the heavy bunker oil), as well as infrared lights in a drying room. Outside, large tanks will collect and separate the waste-oil/solids and grey water from the washing process. SANCCOB logistics manager Mariëtte Hopley reported the washing facility would be up and running on Friday, when training would begin for islanders in the washing of penguins.
The rehab shed was cleaned out and disinfected before turning it into a dedicated unit for sick and weaker penguins. Working closely with the island rehab manager Dereck Rogers, the SANCCOB team separated penguins by habitus, with the very weakest penguins being moved into the rehab shed.


Cleaning the rehab shed at Tristan. Photo by Katrine Herian

Cleaning the rehab shed at Tristan da Cunha. Photo by Katrine Herian

Pilchards imported to supplement local fish food for penguins

By midday the first boxes of frozen pilchards had come ashore and were being defrosted and fed to the stronger penguins which are being prepared for “washing” over the weekend. Each penguin was fed one pilchard for the first day, as they need to get used to the change in diet from the local yellowtail and five fingers fish fed to them thus far.

Feeding oiled penguins at Tristan. Photo by Katrine Herian

Feeding locally caught fish to the penguins. Photo by Katrine Herian

Outer islands oil pollution assessment

Dr. Mark Whittington (of ITOPF) , and Mr. Jean-Luc Dardidon (of Le Floch), visited Middle & Nightingale Islands to assess the residual oil remaining in the bays and on the rocks after the OLIVA grounded on the 16 th March. A plan shall shortly be formalised to deal with the remaining oil, and to prevent further impact on the penguin and bird colonies.


A helicopter is supposedly on standby on another ship (the Ivan Papanin) that is waiting to head to Tristan from Cape Town. The chopper will be of tremendous help in moving penguins off of the islands, monitoring the number of birds still on the islands, and transporting clean penguins away from the oil-contaminated waters in the area. I will have another update about this in my next post (which will be later today or tomorrow).

To read more about this penguin rescue (and to see more photos), visit the official Tristan da Cunha website here. This page commences with the first rescue of oiled penguins on March 19, 2011.


While the ship’s insurers are supposed to pay for rescue and clean-up efforts, this takes a long time – and, from what I understand, there has been little or no response from the owners and insurers of the MS Oliva. Without help from the outside world, these endangered penguins (and other seabirds) are at great risk. The islanders and the small team of rescue professionals currently on Tristan da Cunha are doing everything they can to save these oiled birds, but they need funding to carry out this critical rescue mission. Please let them know they are not alone in this – you can help them by donating generously to one of the following groups today. And please spread the word! Thank you!

The Ocean Doctor (Dr. David Guggenheim): http://oceandoctor.org/ (Click on the green ‘donate now’ button in the right-hand column.) Or go to this link: Nightingale Island Disaster Penguin and Seabird Rescue Fund

Royal Society for the Protection of BirdsNightingale Island Emergency Appeal

Foundation for Antarctic ResearchCatastrophic Oil Spill – Tristan

Dyan deNapoli (The Penguin Lady) – author of The Great Penguin Rescue

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