An old man was walking along the beach and saw in the distance a young boy who appeared to be dancing and gyrating at the ocean's edge. As the man got closer, he realized that the boy was not dancing at all. The tide had gone out, beaching thousands and thousands of starfish. The boy was throwing starfish one after the other back into the ocean so that they might survive. "Son, you can't possibly throw all of those starfish back. How can what you are doing possibly matter," the old man asked. As the boy threw yet another starfish back into the safety of the ocean, he replied, "it mattered to that one."
That story captures the heart and soul of International Bird Rescue's work: it matters to every bird we save.
As a society that is reliant on petroleum products, we all bear a responsibility for the impact that spilled oil can have on wildlife and the environment, and we should do everything possible to minimize harm or loss of life. International Bird Rescue's job is to capture, clean, and rehabilitate oiled aquatic birds and other animals so they can be released back into the wild. In many cases, we work the for oil companies, since countries like Australia, Brazil, England, the United States and South Africa have laws in place requiring the responsible party to pay for clean-up. However, we also care for birds impacted by natural oil seeps and other events where there is no responsible party-our compassionate clinicians never turn their backs on animals in need.
As the world's oil companies continue to explore even further out into the oceans for oil, it is important that trained organizations are available to care for wildlife in the likely and possibly catastrophic event of a deepwater oil spill.
As part of the clean-up operation after an oil spill, all the oil must be removed from the environment; this includes any oiled wildlife, dead or alive. By getting oiled wildlife out of the field quickly, we can help prevent "secondary oiling," where clean animals unknowingly prey upon the oiled ones and become ill.
When we rescue an animal, there are ripple effects that go well beyond that individual. Each animal saved can go on to rejoin and rebuild the wild population, helping to preserve future generations. This is especially critical with threatened and endangered species like Brown Pelicans and Snowy Plovers.
International Bird Rescue is renowned for our leadership and expertise in the oiled wildlife recovery and rehabilitation field because our staff also cares for birds 365 days a year, even when there is no large-scale crisis. By managing two California-based bird rescue clinics, and treating birds impacted by weather events and other environmental and man-made threats, our experts are continually improving their skills, ﬁnding new and better ways of helping wildlife.
In 1996, 300 King, Spectacled and Stellar's Eider were oiled on the remote islands of the Pribilof in Alaska. Bird Rescue's team was able to save over 80 percent of the birds. During the 2000 Treasure spill in South Africa, rescuers cleaned 20,000 oiled African Penguins, eventually releasing 90 percent of them, and successfully relocated another 19,500 to prevent them from becoming oiled. Research papers have concluded the Penguins' population is 19 percent higher today than it would have been without wildlife rehabilitation in the past four decades. (1)
Thanks to International Bird Rescue's field research, bird rescue techniques have advanced greatly in the past 15 years. Proactive capture, the use of blood work and other diagnostics tools, and specialized cages and pools enable us to release rehabilitated birds in a much healthier state than ever before. In recent years, there have been a number of studies carried out with transmitters on seabirds that showed very promising results about the survival rates of rehabilitated birds. One study on oiled and rehabilitated Murres concluded that, "surviving murres were not compromised in movement, mobility, or navigation." (2)
1 Wolfaardt A, 2009. The Conservation Value of Cleaning Oiled African Penguins: A study of the impact of oil pollution on the African Penguin, and the conservation value of de-oiling contaminated birds. Lambert Academic Publishing, 317 pp.
2 Newman, S.H., R.T. Golightly, E.N. Craig, H.R. Carter, and C. Kreuder. 2004. The Effects of petroleum exposure and rehabilitation on post-release survival, behavior, and blood health indices: A Common Murre case study following the Styvesant petroleum spill. Oiled Wildlife Care Network, University of California, Davis. Pp. 1-46
History of Oiled Seabrids
Download PDF (370KB)
How Does International Bird Rescue Help Oiled Birds?
Learn about the process of helping and releasing birds
How Oil Affects Birds
How a small amount of oil on birds' feathers can be deadly