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Animal Science

The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

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Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill - Wildlife

Posted May 06, 2010 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Twenty-one years ago, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez spilled its contents into Prince William Sound, Alaska. At that time, it was the largest spill in U.S. waters. On April 20, 2010, an oil rig operated by BP plc exploded and sank 5,000 feet below the ocean's surface. Oil began to leak at a rate of about 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day. Because the spill was not immediately contained, oil continued to spread through the Gulf of Mexico – and could even spread to the Atlantic Ocean.

Spread and Impacts

Engineers are working around the clock to stop the flow of oil. The spill impacts all levels of the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem and life. The water serves as a lifeline for the animals, fishermen, shippers, and more – including, of course, oil rigs like the one that is the source of the leak.

All citizens, not just those surrounding the Gulf of Mexico, could face problems due to the spill. Jobs may be lost, for example, if there is no seafood to catch. There could be delays in shipping if the waterways remain delayed. Worse, if not contained, the oil could spread out into the open ocean and up the east coast of the U.S. and beyond.

Animal Rescue and Cleanup

Many people remember the commercials depicting oil-covered animals being cleaned up after the Exxon Valdez spill. It's not as simple as dunking the wildlife in buckets of Dawn, however. According to "volunteers must undergo hazardous waste operations training before they can work with oil-affected animals."

Deciding whether to save an animal is difficult. Rescuers triage based on different factors such as chance of survival, expense, and expected quality of life after survival. Some of other factors used include:

  • General physical condition and lab work
  • Life stage, molten feathers
  • Size
  • Threat to rescuers
  • Percentage of body covered in oil
  • Level of suffering
  • Rescuer's knowledge of species

Caring for Affected Animals:

There are seven parts to treating and rescuing wildlife impacted by an oil spill:

  1. Search for and collect oiled wildlife.
  2. Fully examine the animals.
  3. Warm, feed, and hydrate before allowing them to rest for 48 hours.
  4. Wash in a series of tubs filled with hot water and a diluted cleaning agent.
  5. Place in outdoor pools (or appropriate housing) for pre-release conditioning for a minimum of three days and up to several months.
  6. Fully examine the animals, band or tag, and release into clean habitat.
  7. Complete a post-release assessment by monitoring the tagged animals via radio devices.

Anyone can report animals affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by calling (866) 557-1401.

References:,subtopic_id,topic_id&entry_id(entry_subtopic_topic)=809&subtopic_id(entry_subtopic_topic)=2&topic_id(entry_subtopic_topic)=1 (image)


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Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Tech Valley, NY
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Re: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill - Wildlife

05/07/2010 9:54 AM

The effects of the oil spill are going to be seen for a long time when looking at the area's ecosystem, especially since the spill has yet to be completely contained. It's tragic to think of how much wildlife will lost as a result.

Since they are tagging the saved animals, it will be interesting to see how they live once they are re-released, and whether the spill's impact will force them to adapt to a new way of life.

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