Here is the dead wildlife tally as of yesterday:
Most of the birds spend 2-3 weeks in recovery and they spend the first week very stressed out due to all the human handling. Because of the stress, the Bird Rescue Center often let the bird rest 5 days or so before they begin the cleaning process. Then the oiled birds get washed with Dawn dish soap, hosed with water, and treated with tender care by a team of vet techs. I asked Bruce Miller with U.S. Fish & Wildlife whether he thought these birds were getting better health care than many Americans and responded diplomatically, saying he leaves ideologies at the door and does his job, which is to save these birds. (The people at the Buras facility could not give an estimated price per bird but it cost an estimated $15,000 per marine bird for the 627 birds released after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill).
The brown pelicans (pictured here) have a strong likelihood if survivorship if they can be rescued and cleaned. Their delisting from the U.S. Endangered Species List last November positioned them to be an icon of success of banning DDT and protecting bird habitat. However, the Gulf oil spill is impacting their numbers (an estimated 16,000 nesting pairs along the Louisiana coast) and their nesting sites, which has sparked talks of a relisting. The gulls have also been doing well at the rescue center but not the terns, who are picky eaters and more sensitive to stress.
When asked what made this spill different, Mark Russell of IBRRC said, “it’s everywhere”. I asked about what would happen with the incoming migratory birds. “We don’t even want to talk about them,” Russell said.
A lot of people want to volunteer. It’s important to realize that BP is obligated to pay for the clean-up so they have hired a gang of recently graduated vet techs. In terms of donations, it’s better, Russell said, to give to local wildlife rehabilitation centers that work on these issues year round and don’t get high profile exposure.
Outside, the pelicans were looking freshly laundered. There was a reason for this: the Dawn soap also stripped them of their natural oils and so they were in a holding pen until their sleeker look came back. Once they regained their natural waterproofing, they would be transported to a state park in Georgia or Florida perhaps, with hopes that the oil wouldn’t reach them again or vice versa. This was another thing that made this spill different. There is just more oil coming, which makes it impossible to release the birds into the same habitat where they were found.