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New Year Brings Hope for Oiled Birds as Spain Prepares for Long Clean-up

Submitted by: International Fund for Animal Welfare

Categories: Environment

Posted: Jan 06, 2003 – 11:00 PM EST


Jan. 06 /CSRwire/ - PONTEVEDRA, SPAIN – Dozens of rehabilitated sea birds will be returned to the wild off the coast of Spain this week thanks to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW—www.ifaw.org) Emergency Relief (ER) team. These latest releases cap a two-month wildlife rescue and rehabilitation effort by the IFAW ER team, which collaborated closely with local authorities in responding to one of the world’s worst-ever oil spills.

As the tanker Prestige sank to the sea floor off the coast of Spain last November, environmentalists prepared for a spill worse than the Exxon Valdez. Concerns grew as affected wildlife – including rare and endangered sea birds – began appearing on the beaches covered thick with oil. At the request of SEO/Birdlife, the Spanish ornithological society, the IFAW ER team quickly deployed international experts from the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) and established a rescue and rehabilitation center in Pontevedra, Spain. This week’s releases are expected to include gannets and guillemots. To date, the team has successfully treated, rehabilitated and released more than 180 birds back to the wild including gannets, shags, cormorants, razorbills, guillemots, storm petrels, scoters, Atlantic puffins, and several species of gulls .

“We are heartened by the release of these birds, but the long-term effects of this spill could last years,” said IFAW ER team member Barbara Callahan. “Two months after the Prestige went down oiled animals are still being found each day. Along with continuing rescue and rehabilitation, we are working to assist authorities to increase local capacity during oil spills and help develop contingency plans for future impact.”

For the past several weeks the IFAW ER team has been training local volunteers and responders to take over the Pontevedra center and prepare for more oiled wildlife. Xunta, the Spanish environmental authority, plans to continue the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals as well as the tedious process of cleaning the beaches affected by the spill.

“We are very grateful to the IFAW Emergency Relief team and the many concerned individuals who have come to Spain to assist these animals,” said Vicente Piorno, Xunta Coordinator for the Center. “The unique expertise IFAW has shared with us has made a critical difference and better prepared us to handle the tasks ahead. We very much look forward to further collaboration.”

Note to Editors:
IFAW’s Emergency Relief Team is managed cooperatively by IFAW and the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). The team is comprised of leaders in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, biology, veterinary medicine and management and involves professionals from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, South Africa, UK and the USA. In 2000, the IFAW ER team led the response to the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa, which was the largest of its kind. That three-month operation involved 12,000 volunteers and led to the successful release of some 20,000 oiled African penguins back into the wild. The IFAW ER Team has responded to more than a dozen major oil spills around the world in recent years and is recognized as the world leader in oiled wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Bailey International Fund for Animal Welfare
Phone: +44 7740 600 741


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