Well surprise, surprise. The news media and the blogs—including a few that should know better (*cough* Treehugger)—have been bursting at the seams with euthanasia bloodlust for oil-soaked birds. But IBRRC, the actual experts doing the work of bird rescue and research, is pushing back. Silvia Gaus, the German biologist who everyone is quoting, is basing her opinion on bad and outdated science.
Mark Russell, a project manager at the IBRRC, took strong issue with Gaus’ claim that cleaning is ineffective: He told me that the studies on which she based her conclusions suffered from some gaps in procedure. (For example, what were the rehabilitation practices? Did the monitoring equipment that was strapped onto the released birds contribute to their demise? If you can no longer locate a bird with a transmitter, should you always assume that the bird died?)
Other studies indicate that the survival rate for cleaned-up birds can be quite high, from 78 to 100 percent. And as bad as those oily pelicans may look in the pictures from Louisiana, Russell said it’s often the oiliest birds that have the highest survival rate. That’s because they tend to be picked up earlier, before dehydration, hypothermia and other ills have set in.
Russell said there was once a long-running debate over whether the stress of rehabilitation does the birds more harm than good. (Research shows that it doesn’t.)
IBRRC also points to a National Geographic report that further debunks Gaus.
Each oil spill is different, however, and survival rates often depend on factors such as climate and species, according to Nils Warnock, a wildlife specialist with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.
No one knows what the survival rate will be for the Gulf species affected by the oil spill. But, Warnock said, “I don’t believe that all these birds that are being rehabilitated for the Deepwater Horizon spill will end up dying.”
He added that Gaus’s statistics are related to past North Sea oil spills, where birds are more prone to freezing after oil has compromised their natural waterproofing.
So there you have it. Clean, rescue, and care for oil-soaked birds. Don’t kill them.
∞ posted at 07:22 by stevesimitzis
Here’s a simple quiz: If you came home to find your house on fire, would you (a) call the fire department and, while waiting, run in to try and save your family? Or would you (b) assume they were going to die from smoke inhalation anyway, so why not pour some gasoline on the fire and finish the job?
You’re probably not a sociopath, which means you answered (a). So then why the hell is Treehugger pushing the idea that rescuing oil-soaked birds is futile, so we’re better off killing them?
They’re basing this recommendation on the opinion of one biologist in Germany, Silvia Gaus, who claims that “the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent.” We’re expected to be impressed because “even the World Wildlife Fund agrees.”
Yet they made no attempt to ask the International Bird Rescue Research Center what they think. They’re actually in the field, rescuing birds and cleaning them, and they’ve been doing it for decades. IBRRC estimates the survival rate of birds to be between 50 to 80 percent. As for long-term survival, well, why not just read what the IBRRC has to say about their own success with rehabilitation?
Do rehabilitated birds in oil spills survive once they have been released?
I wish I had a yes or no answer but it just is not that simple. The truth is that, yes, many have a very good chance of survival. We have documented many survival stories but it is very difficult to follow up on sea birds that live in colonies in remote areas and who basically look the same except for little silver bands on one leg. In most cases we receive less than a 1 percent return rate on banded birds and especially sea birds that live in colonies that sometimes range in the millions. But we are always working to establish and apply any post release studies that we can.
IBRRC openly admits that there isn’t enough data, but what they do know is much more encouraging than “put ‘em out of their misery.” Here is one such study [PDF]. Rescued birds from the Santa Clara River oil spill survived for years and continued to migrate.
Even if only one rescued bird survives (or survives long enough to breed!), it’s worth doing. BP’s oil volcano is a moral tragedy, and we have an obligation to throw every resource available towards saving as many animals as possible. This probably makes me “unserious” or “sentimental,” but it’s shameful for an eco-conscious blog like Treehugger to push this kind of “counter-intuitive” bullshit. What’s good is actually bad so let’s kill some birds! UGH.
∞ posted at 08:29 by stevesimitzis