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The latest reports indicate that the recovery of any more oiled penguins from the islands in the Tristan da Cunha island group has probably concluded. Conservation officials on the islands have said they believe that all of the live oiled penguins have now been collected and brought to the rehabilitation center on the main island (Tristan da Cunha). This temporary rehabilitation center was constructed after supplies and staff from SANCCOB (Cape Town’s seabird rescue center) arrived on the tug, Svitzer Singapore, on April 5th. Extremely rough seas made it nearly impossible to access several of the islands over the last week or two, but now that a helicopter has arrived (as of last Tuesday on the Russian research vessel, the Ivan Papanin), they should be able to conduct more thorough surveys of the islands. The good news is that the rough seas have helped to break up the oil in the waters surrounding the islands.

Five ships at Tristan da Cunha - the most ever seen there at once. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSPB

Five ships at Tristan da Cunha - the most ever seen there at once. A helicopter is on the ship on the right, the Ivan Papanin. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSPB

Once the Svitzer Singapore arrived from Cape Town with frozen fish and cleaning supplies (including detergent, wash-tubs, degreaser, toothbrushes, hot water heaters and infrared heat lamps), the training of volunteers and cleaning of the oiled penguins could finally begin. Which was a tremendous relief. However, these birds had been coated in toxic oil for so long that they were in a very compromised state. In the past week, 1,577 of the 3,718 oiled penguins died. At this point, the exact cause of these deaths has not been released.

SANCCOB CEO Venessa Strauss spraying degreaser onto an oiled Rockhopper penguin prior to washing it. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSPB

SANCCOB CEO Venessa Strauss spraying degreaser onto an oiled Rockhopper penguin prior to washing it. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSPB

Washing a Rockhopper penguin at Tristan da Cunha. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSP

Washing a Rockhopper penguin at Tristan da Cunha. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSPB

But we do know the following from previous experience; an oiled animal will compulsively preen or groom itself (a penguin uses its beak to do this) so they ingest the toxic oil covering their bodies. This leads to dehydration, anemia (the red blood cells lyse or break down, and the birds also get bleeding ulcers), and other health issues. Eventually, this long-term exposure to the toxic oil can kill them. So, the ideal situation is to get the penguins washed as soon as possible once they have been oiled (after first giving them 24-48 hours to stabilize after being captured and transported).

But, unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond the control of the islanders and the conservation officers stationed there (and the penguin experts coming from Cape Town), the necessary supplies did not arrive until three weeks after the oil spill occurred. The hold-up was apparently on the governmental level in the UK (this island group is a British territory). We still do not have answers as to why the official response from the UK was so slow and insufficient. Had professional rescue teams (bringing necessary supplies) been allowed to go to Tristan as soon as this oil spill occurred, the lives of many more penguins would undoubtedly have been saved.

Emaciated oiled penguin rescued on March 23rd. Photo by Katrine Herian, RSP

Heavily oiled, emaciated penguin rescued on March 23rd. Photo by Katrine Herian

The timing of this oil spill also was disastrous for the penguins because they were just completing their annual molts (during which they fast for 2-3 weeks), and were already extremely thin to begin with. Before the Svitzer Singapore arrived with 20 tons of frozen sardines, islanders fished for local fish to feed the penguins – and even donated all of the fish in their personal freezers to the cause. According to the latest reports, the islanders are doing a wonderful job washing the penguins and nursing them back to health under the direction of the professional rescue teams. For more on the recent updates, you can read last week’s article from BirdLife International Community, titled Wash and dry for rockhoppers at rehab center. This page from the official Tristan da Cunha website also has updated reports: Seabird Rehabilitation on Tristan da Cunha main island.

Islanders cutting up fish they had caught to feed the oiled penguins.

Islanders cutting up fish they had caught to feed the oiled penguins.

So several questions remain; How many penguins died on the islands or at sea before they could be collected or counted? How many of the rescued penguins will survive, and how many will continue to breed after being rehabilitated and released? How will this oil spill impact the future survival of this endangered species? How will it affect the local ecology of this island group? Will the oil enter the food chain, thus affecting the penguins and other seabirds further? At this point, the local lobster fishery has been shut down due to oil contamination. This fishery is the primary source of income for the 270 islanders living on Tristan da Cunha. How will this oil spill impact the islanders as well?

Until the penguins return in August for the next breeding season, we won’t realize the full impact of this oil spill. Even then, we still won’t have all of the answers to these questions. But, when they do return (after spending months feeding at sea in preparation for the breeding season), conservation officers on the islands will be able to conduct nest counts, which should give us some indication of how many penguins might have been lost that were not accounted for at this time. To fully understand the long-term impact the MS Oliva oil spill will have on this pristine region, and on the endangered Northern Rockhopper penguins, will require long-term monitoring. This project will require a great deal of funding – and it will not be covered by the ship’s insurers.

Hand-feeding a thin, oiled Rockhopper penguin at Tristan da Cunha. Photo by Estelle van der Merwe

Hand-feeding a thin, oiled Rockhopper penguin at Tristan da Cunha. Photo by Estelle van der Merwe

The following organizations have set up special fundraisers for the rescue, rehabilitation and future monitoring of the Rockhopper penguins at Tristan da Cunha. PLEASE DONATE GENEROUSLY TO HELP THE PENGUINS! 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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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.

BRIEF UPDATE:

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.

PLEASE HELP BY DONATING TO THIS PENGUIN RESCUE EFFORT TODAY!

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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When the MS Oliva slammed into Nightingale Island on Wednesday, March 16th, spilling 300,000 gallons of fuel oil that oiled thousands of endangered penguins, one would have thought the world would have stood up and taken notice. But this tiny island, which is part of the Tristan da Cunha island group lying halfway between South Africa and South America, is so small and so remote that most people have never even heard of it. There are no people living on this 1.5 square mile speck of land – however, Nightingale and the few other tiny islands that make up this island group are inhabited by millions of seabirds, including the Northern Rockhopper penguin. Nearby Tristan da Cunha is the most isolated inhabited island on the planet – just 265 people live there.

Map of Tristan da Cunha islands

Map of Tristan da Cunha islands

Perhaps if this oil spill had occurred in a more populated region, more people would have heard about it. Or, for those of us living in the US, if the spill had occurred in US waters, it might have been in our newspapers and on our nightly news. Perhaps if there were not other earth-shattering events occurring at the same time (Japan, Libya, etc), news of this environmental disaster would have made it into the headlines. Perhaps if it was a story about people or a war, and not about a bunch of birds, it might have attracted the attention of mainstream media. Perhaps. But it was none of these things – and so it has been eclipsed by other ‘more important’ news stories.

But that finally changed this weekend, when the story was picked up by a few major news outlets – in particular CNN, who ran the story yesterday on their website and television network. This headline ran on their website on April 3rd: Penguin rescue operation under way after South Atlantic oil spill.

We have Dr. David Guggenheim (the Ocean Doctor) to thank for making this happen. Dr. Guggenheim just happened to be on a ship travelling to Tristan da Cunha when this oil spill occurred. It had been his life-long dream – since the age of eleven – to see penguins in the wild. He could never have imagined that, instead of seeing lively Rockhoppers bouncing from rock to rock, he would see them hunkered down by the shoreline, their bodies encased in thick, black oil. Even the plumes of feathers above their eyes that are normally bright yellow and partially erect, were solid black and plastered to the sides of their heads.

 

Heavily oiled Rockhopper penguin on Nightingale Island. Photo by Andrew Evans
Oiled Rockhopper penguin on Nightingale Island. Photo by Andrew Evans

On his journey throughout the southern oceans, Dr. Guggenheim had been regularly blogging and video conferencing with students in their classrooms. Had he not been at Tristan da Cunha at just the right time, with just the right technology, and just the right passion for our oceans, we still might not know about the MS Oliva oil spill and its impact on the penguins and other animals there. Also fortuitously – or miraculously, some might say – the crew of the ship he was travelling on (the Prince Albert II) had been trained in high-seas rescues, and they were able to rescue the 22-man crew from the MS Oliva before it broke apart and sank.

Prince Albert II crew members rescuing crew from the MS Oliva. Photo by Kristine Hannon

Prince Albert II crew members rescuing crew from the MS Oliva. Photo by Kristine Hannon

Because Dr. Guggenheim was on the scene and began posting about it right away, word began to spread about this latest penguin crisis. At least in online communities. Were it not for social media, who knows how long it might have been before we learned of it here in the states, or in other parts of the world. And yesterday afternoon – at long last – CNN interviewed Dr. Guggenheim about the oil spill on one of their international news programs. The clip from that broadcast can be seen here: Dr. David Guggenheim on CNN.

Now, perhaps, more media outlets will take notice. And we need them to. Although the ship’s insurers will eventually be forced to pay for the rescue efforts, until then, rescue workers on the islands are in desperate need of supplies and funding. Just 100 islanders and a few penguin specialists are caring for thousands of penguins that have been rescued from the oil spill. Of the estimated 10,000-20,000 penguins that have been oiled, a few thousand have been captured. The size and scope of the task they face is truly daunting. You can help the islanders save their penguins by making a donation through one of the organizations listed below. All of the funds raised go directly to the islands to support the penguin rescue effort currently underway.

Rescue worker feeding Rockhopper penguin at Tristan. Photo via CNN

Rescue worker feeding Rockhopper penguin at Tristan. Photo via CNN

The Ocean Foundation fundraiser (set up by the Ocean Doctor): Nightingale Island Disaster Penguin and Seabird Rescue Fund

Crowdrise fundraiser (set up by Sandra Birnhak, Director of the Foundation for Antarctic Research): Catastrophic Oil Spill – Tristan

RSPB fundraiser (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds): Nightingale Island Emergency Appeal

Please donate as generously as you can! These penguins were just declared an endangered species in 2008, and your help is needed to keep their fragile population viable. I will be posting another update about the current state of the rescue effort – but for now, you can learn more by reading the CNN article.

Thank you!

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

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While I was out of town for several appearances this week, Sandra Birnhak, Director of the Foundation for Antarctic Research, was busy e-mailing me with regular updates about her fundraiser on Crowdrise for the oiled Rockhopper penguins at the Tristan da Cunha islands. Sandra visited this remote island group many years ago, and fell in love with the Rockhopper penguins she observed there. It was some time after this visit and several expeditions to Antarctica that she founded her non-profit organization. The mission statement from the group’s website says; Founded in 2008, The Foundation for Antarctic Research, Inc. primary focus is scientific research in Antarctica on behalf of wildlife that is gravely affected by changes in the environment and fishery laws.

Dead oiled Rockhopper penguin at Nightingale Islands. Photo by Andrew Evans

Dead oiled Rockhopper penguin at Nightingale Island. Photo by Andrew Evans

Deeply moved by the current penguin crisis at Tristan da Cunha, Sandra began a fundraising campaign on Crowdrise, with an initial goal of raising $10,000 by tomorrow night (Sunday, April 3rd). As of this morning, her campaign had raised $4,770. Right now (4:00 pm EST on Saturday) the fund is up to $5,515. With your help, we can  meet that $10,000 goal. Please donate generously TODAY!

Sandra also came up with the idea of giving away a copy of my book, The Great Penguin Rescue, which chronicles the remarkable rescue of 40,000 penguins from the Treasure oil spill in South Africa, for a $100 donation. I served as a rehabilitation supervisor during this massive rescue effort, and am donating 20% of my proceeds from the book to penguin rescue and conservation groups. Sandra is providing several copies of my book for donors to the Tristan rescue, and I am donating copies to her fundraiser as well.

 

The Great Penguin Rescue by Dyan deNapoli

The Great Penguin Rescue by Dyan deNapoli

But her efforts don’t stop with this fundraiser – she has been very active in reaching out to her broad network, trying to get as many people as possible to support the rescue efforts at Tristan and to help disseminate information about the Rockhopper penguins and how they have been harmed by the MS Oliva oil spill. The Northern Rockhopper penguin is already classified as an endangered species, and if we don’t get more help out to these imperiled seabirds now, thousands will assuredly perish.

Large group of oiled Rockhopper penguins at Tristan. Photo by Trevor Glass

Large group of oiled Rockhopper penguins at Tristan. Photo by Trevor Glass

Much has happened in the four days that I was away, and I will post another update later today with the most recent news from the islands. I’ve been in communication with folks on the rescue team and with others closely involved with various fundraising efforts. I will do my best to distill everything down to a comprehensive and manageable report.

In the meantime, please visit the Crowdrise webpage for this fundraiser: CATASTROPHIC OIL SPILL – TRISTAN. And PLEASE DONATE GENEROUSLY. TODAY! Thank you.

Dyan deNapoli, penguin expert and author of The Great Penguin Rescue

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Dear fellow penguin and nature lovers,

I received a call today from Heather at The Ocean Foundation, alerting me to this urgent briefing tomorrow by Dr. David Guggenheim (otherwise known as the Ocean Doctor). Dr. Guggenheim just happened to be near Tristan da Cunha when the MS Oliva slammed into Nightingale Island on March 16th, spilling its fuel oil and oiling thousands of endangered Rockhopper penguins. Please see the press release below for more details. For those in the DC area, you can attend his talk in person at 10:00 am at the National Audubon Society 1150 Connecticut Ave #600. All others can watch the live webinar from 10:00 am to noon here: http://anymeeting.com/oceandoctor1

Urgent Briefing and Webinar on Oil Spill Disaster at Nightingale Island, Second Largest Population of Seabirds in the World

For those in Washington, DC, please attend this briefing live at 10am-12pm Eastern Time, Thursday March 31, 2011 : National Audubon Society, 1150 Connecticut Ave NW # 600, Washington, DC 20036-4132.

For those unable to attend in person, Dr. Guggenheim’s presentation will be broadcast via webinar and you can participate using the following link: http://anymeeting.com/oceandoctor1
Please join Dr. David E. Guggenheim, Senior Fellow at The Ocean Foundation, for an urgent briefing and strategy session regarding a major environmental disaster still unfolding at Nightingale Island, part of the most remote inhabited island group in the world, located in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.
Dr. Guggenheim, who was on site shortly after the disaster occurred, will present details of this recent disaster, including photos and video. Trevor Glass, director of the Tristan da Cunha Department of Conservation, will participate by telephone from Tristan da Cunha.

Background of Oil Spill Disaster at Nightingale Island

Nearby Tristan da Cunha, where the only settlement exists, has a population of less than 300. Dr. Guggenheim was aboard the Silversea vessel, “Prince Albert II” which was in the area when, for reasons still under investigation, the 75,300 ton Greek freighter “Oliva,” en route from Santos, Brazil to Singapore with a cargo of soya beans, ran aground onto the rocks at Nightingale Island’s northwestern corner on March 16th. By early the following morning, when the Prince Albert II arrived on scene, the “Oliva”’s captain reported water in the engine room and the ship had a significant fuel leak from its tanks carrying 300,000 gallon load of heavy marine oil.

The Prince Albert II’s expedition team — specially trained in the operation of Zodiacs in heavy weather — rescued the 12 crew still aboard the Oliva. The expedition team reported heavy oil conditions in the water. Less than 12 hours later, Oliva broke apart on the rocks and the stern section which housed the crew, rolled onto its side and into the waves.

Once ashore at Tristan de Cunha on March 19th, Dr. Guggenheim met with Trevor Glass, Director of Tristan da Cunha’s Department of Conservation. Mr. Glass reported that oil had completely encircled Nightingale Island and that many oiled penguins, albatross and other seabirds, along with subantarctic fur seals,were observed. The Tristan de Cunha island group represents the second largest concentration of sea birds in the world. Half of the world’s endangered Northern Rockhopper penguin population is found here. Nightingale Island holds more than 100,000 pairs of Northern Rockhopper penguins, 20,000 pairs of albatrosses including the yellow nose albatross, and 2,000,000 pairs of Broadbill prions. The island is also home to the highly-endangered Tristan Bunting. Only 50 pairs remain in the world, all of which are found on Nightingale Island. Over the past week, the oil has encircled nearby Inaccessible Island, a World Heritage Site. Today (March 28), Dr. Guggenheim spoke with Mr. Glass and learned that the situation remains dire, efforts now being hampered by 50-60 knot winds and a shortage of supplies. The Oliva continues to leak oil.

Wildlife rescue efforts are underway, however the remoteness of Tristan de Cunha, which has no landing strip, means that the nearest help is a 4-7 day boat ride away (from Cape Town, South Africa). Trevor’s team is not equipped to deal with an oil spill of this magnitude and outside assistance is desperately needed. The Prince Albert II was able to supply Mr. Glass’ team with parkas, gum boots and gloves before its departure, and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), based in Cape Town, is providing some assistance.

Thank you!
David

David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D., the “Ocean Doctor”

Senior Fellow, The Ocean Foundation

Director, Cuba Marine Research & Conservation Program

http://www.OceanDoctor.orghttp://www.TheOceanFoundation.org

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Wow, where to start? It’s been a whirlwind week. I’ve been away since Friday – thus the radio silence for the last several days – and I’m turning right around to hit the road again for a number of author appearances this week. I’ll be on the road until Saturday, so please forgive the lack of updates during the coming week. Although I will do my best to post from the road, time and internet access may make it a bit challenging. O.K., enough about that – now on the important stuff, and the real reason why you (and I) are here.

There is both good news and bad news coming from the Tristan da Cunha islands. The good news is that a ship carrying supplies and five experienced penguin rehabilitators from SANCCOB has FINALLY left Cape Town. More than a week was lost jumping through several political hoops before they got permission to sail to the islands. With every passing day, the penguins are growing weaker from hunger and from the toxic effects of being smothered in oil, so time is of the essence.  The ship is carrying frozen fish and penguin washing supplies to the area. But these supplies are limited and the penguins are many. Bad weather is also hampering the rescue efforts – and will likely slow the ship’s progress as well. For more details about this, please see this article in yesterday’s Cape Argus newspaper: Birds rescued from Tristan oil spill. (The Cape Argus site is now all wonky – but this link has a copy of John Yeld’s original article.)

Briefly, here is where things stand: Approximately 1,000 oiled Rockhopper penguins have been rescued, and are being cared for by 100 islanders. Local fishermen have been catching fish to feed the penguins until the frozen fish arrives with the long-awaited ship. Another 1,000 or so penguins that have not yet been oiled have been corralled to keep them from entering the water and getting oiled. The plan is to transport them far from the oil-polluted waters, and release them into clean waters. Penguins have excellent homing instincts, and hopefully the area will be cleaned of the oil by the time the penguins find their way home.

This same strategy was used very effectively once before. During the rescue of African penguins from the Treasure oil spill in June of 2000, 19,506 clean penguins were transported 500 miles away from the oiled waters of Table Bay and released at Cape Recife in Port Elizabeth to swim back to their islands. Which they did in about two week’s time. They arrived just as workers had finished cleaning up the spill. This was a risky experiment at the time – nobody had tried this technique before, but at that point in the rescue, there was no more room to house another 20,000 penguins (on top of the 20,000 oiled penguins already at the rescue centers), and there were not enough people to care for them either. Luckily, their experiment worked. Based on this success, conservation workers proposed utilitzing this strategy in future spills. Which, for better or worse, they now have the opportunity to try again.

(For an animated map of the epic swim made by three of the Treasure penguins from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, click here.)

Sadly, there are thousands of oiled penguins (an estimated 10,000-20,000) still waiting to be rescued on the Tristan islands. The stark reality is that there just is not the manpower or the resources available to be able to rescue many of these birds. This is truly a devastating blow for the endangered Northern Rockhopper penguin.

Heavily oiled Rockhopper at Tristan. Photo by Andrew Evans

Heavily oiled Rockhopper at Tristan. Photo by Andrew Evans

I must leave shortly, so I apologize for not providing more details in this post. I’m including links to a few sites that should fill in some of the gaps for now. For continued updates on the oil spill rescue and recovery efforts, I recommend the following websites:

The official Tristan da Cunha website about the MS Oliva spill: http://www.tristandc.com/newsmsolivahelp.php

The ACAP website has daily updates: http://www.acap.aq/latest-news/breaking-news-bulk-carrier-ms-oliva-has-run-aground-on-tristans-nightingale-island

The Ocean Doctor (Dr. David Guggenheim): http://oceandoctor.org/

To donate to this vitally important rescue effort, please visit The Ocean Foundation.

Sandra Birnhak is also collecting donations for the rescue effort through her Crowdwise page here.

Please continue to spread the word everyone! And many thanks to all of you for sharing your concern for these beautiful seabirds.

Dyan deNapoli – Penguin expert and author of The Great Penguin Rescue.

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Many thanks to Brian who just sent me this video of the oiled penguins at Tristan da Cunha. This was narrated and posted on YouTube by Andrew on ‘WheresAndrewTV’s Channel‘. Andrew posted another video on his YouTube channel the day before the MS Oliva ran aground, poignantly saying how he has dreamed his entire life of visiting this beautiful remote island. Little did he know he would have just one day to enjoy its wildlife and pristine beauty before the area would be smothered in oil.

(My apologies for the code showing – I haven’t yet figured out how to post the video without it showing up. Ach – and now, for some reason, the video keeps disappearing, even after the post is up. Not sure if it’s a YouTube issue, but I’m just going to post the URL for now until I can straighten this out. Sorry for the technical difficulties.)

The images of the oiled birds and other wildlife in this video are quite distressing, but it’s important that people are aware of this horrendous ecological disaster, so please share this video widely.

And to donate to the rescue effort now underway at the islands, visit the Ocean Foundation’s website. The donation form is here.

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