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Tristan da Cunha

Update on penguin rescue efforts from oil spill in south Atlantic

Originally posted on Daily Kos. Reprinted here with permission at our request. - GH

This is a follow-up to an earlier diary about the threat posed by oil spilled by a freighter that broke up off Nightingale Island, home to approximately half of the world's endangered Northern Rockhopper penguin population.

Here is a brief recap of key events. On March 16, for reasons no one has been able to determine, a fully loaded freighter containing soybeans slammed into the rocks off Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago (a World Heritage site) in the south Atlantic. The freighter broke in half and sank, dumping at least 1500 tons of fuel oil in the seas, which formed a heavy oil slick around the island, threatening marine life. The penguins attracted the most attention as they are a critically endangered. Because of the remote location, it took wildlife rescue teams nearly a week to reach the island by boat and set up operations. Wildlife biologists estimate that half of the 20,000 penguin colony have had some exposure to the oil and over 300 oiled penguins have already died.

One of thousands of Rockhopper penguins found oiled

"Unlike previous spills of this size, it didn't happen way out to sea and gradually approach such a vital conservation area. It struck right at the heart of the penguin colony and it's devastating to them."

- Sarah Sanders, Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds

Thanks to outreach and updates by marine biologist David Guggenheim, the difficult wildlife rescue operation is starting to get broader attention by NGOs and the media. CNN has finally covered the story.

 

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