Penguins and Oil Don't Mix. (Journal Extracts)

By Davidson, Steve | Ecos, October-December 2001 | Go to article overview

Penguins and Oil Don't Mix. (Journal Extracts)


Davidson, Steve, Ecos


WHEN the bulk oil carrier Iron Baron ran aground on a reef at the mouth of Tasmania's Tamar River in 1995, it released some 325 tonnes of bunker fuel oil. The little penguin was the most visibly affected species, with 1894 oiled birds being collected for treatment and rehabilitation.

What effect did this have on little penguin populations? How did rehabilitated birds fare after being released? And what was the long-term impact of oiling on penguin breeding success?

By careful monitoring of penguins for two years following the spill, scientists with the Nature Conservation Branch of the Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment, sought to answer these questions. Their studies indicated that despite the relatively small amount of oil spilt by the Iron Baron, the impact on penguins was extensive: 10 000-20 000 penguins died.

Rehabilitation (including a wash in warm water and detergent, feeding and exercise) of some 1800 penguins, and their subsequent release, allowed at least 44-59% to survive to the end of the study, 20 months later. Heavier birds in good condition and with Less oiling at capture tended to have the best odds. …

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