Zoo Returns Pelicans to Sea after Oil Spill
Monday 11th October 2010
Zoo Returns Pelicans to Sea after Oil Spill

Six Australian Pelicans were released at Chinaman’s Beach today by Taronga Wildlife Hospital staff who cleaned the birds caught in an oil spill at Newcastle.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) coordinated the pelican rescue with a range of wildlife carers following an oil spill at the Kooragang Coal Terminal at the end of August.

Most of the birds were initially washed and cared for locally by volunteers. Badly affected birds were brought to the Taronga Wildlife Hospital, washed, treated and released back into the wild.

Taronga veterinary nurse, Amy Twentyman, said: Initially we were providing telephone advice to the NPWS, wildlife carers and local veterinarians on the scene. Then we agreed that the heavily oiled and ill birds would be transported to Taronga for further treatment.”

“We’ve received 32 birds over the last six weeks, suffering from the effects of the oil spill. Following on from the bathing carried out onsite in Newcastle, we gave most of the birds a further series of baths to carefully remove any trace of oil contamination from the feathers.

“This is essential pre-release process removes any remaining traces of oil or detergent that might prevent the bird’s natural oils from waterproofing the feathers.

“Washing, feeding and treating this many wild pelicans is definitely not an easy task as their sheer size and strength requires a combined staff effort to gently clean them up.”

NPWS Marine Fauna Program coordinator, Geoffrey Ross, said the release of the remaining pelicans signals that we are nearing the end of an extremely successful response to the oil spill, with some on-ground cleanup works continuing.

He said: “Thanks to a co-operative effort between volunteer wildlife carer groups – the Native Animal Trust Fund, Australian Seabird Rescue and WIRES and the RSPCA – and local NPWS staff and Newcastle Port Corporation and Taronga, we’ve been able to rehabilitate these pelicans and successfully release them back into the wild, which is a very satisfying outcome for the animals and everyone involved.”

“All the released birds have been fitted with a numbered metal band to enable us to identify them in the future.

“Members of the public can help by reporting any bands sighted (reading the numbers if possible) or any discoveries of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife to their local NPWS office.”