Penguins Being Cleaned After NZ Oil Spill

The Penguin Post has learned that conservationists have warned of an impending wildlife tragedy caused by an oil spill off the east coast of New Zealand, with populations of penguins, whales, seals and seabirds set to be hardest hit. A severe weather warning for the Bay of Plenty area on Monday/yesterday has heightened fears that the stricken cargo vessel Rena, which is carrying 1,700 tons of fuel oil and 200 tons of diesel, will start to break up, with grim consequences for the local marine wildlife. The fallout from the incident, which saw Rena run aground on a reef last Wednesday, is already being felt, with seven little blue penguins and two cormorants recovered and treated today at a centre in Tauranga.

Penguin being cleaned of oil.

However, this number is expected to rise to more than 200 in the coming days, with warnings that an escalation of the situation would have dire consequences for several species. WWF New Zealand said it hoped the incident would not prove a “tragedy” for the region’s marine wildlife, which includes bottlenose dolphins, orcas and beaked whales. Large baleen whales also migrate through the affected area. Of particular concern is the New Zealand dotterel, an endangered shorebird. “Little blue penguins are also very vulnerable as they swim through the oil. Fairy terns frequent the estuary and many northern hemisphere birds, such as godwits, that have migrated south for spring, are also under threat.” “New Zealand is known as the seabird capital of the world. We have about 85 different seabirds that breed here. It’s breeding season now, so there are many birds, such as petrels, that are diving into the water to find food for their chicks.“Should the vessel break up, we risk an international-scale incident. It’s a huge amount of oil. I sincerely hope the it doesn’t break up as the storm bears down on it.”  It’s estimated that up to 50 tons of oil has already been jettisoned into the sea. Radio New Zealand has reported that four of the 1,300 containers aboard Rena carry ferro-silicon, a hazardous substance which is flammable if it comes into contact with water. More than 300 Defence Force personnel have been deployed to tackle the spill, along with specialists from Australia, the UK and the Netherlands. The exclusion zone around the Rena has been extended to 2.8km today, with teams set to resume pumping oil off the damaged vessel. So far, just 10 tonnes of oil has been removed. Humans, as well as marine wildlife, are also in danger from the spill, according to Maritime New Zealand. The government agency has urged people not to touch the oil, which has started to wash up on the tourist-friendly Mount Maunganui beach, despite the efforts of volunteers to begin the clean-up operation.
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One Response to “Penguins Being Cleaned After NZ Oil Spill”

  1. danimations Says:

    What an awful turn of events, and a reminder of the fallible nature of man. Such a shame these little blighters have to bare the brunt of the impact! We’d like to prevent something similar from happening in South Australia, but a new port proposal is in place to build less than a kilometre from a little blue penguin colony. Please help us share this video to raise awareness of their plight! Thanks, Dan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIWncPLXtfs

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