It’s a race against time to save as many as 20,000 endangered rockhopper penguins after an oil spill on March 16 in the South Atlantic. Some 1600 tons of fuel has leaked from the M.S. Oliva, a Maltese-registered ship which ran aground on Nightingale Island, which is part of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, a British territory. Thousands of oil-soaked penguins have been collected and transferred to the main island of the archipelago which is, says the New York Times Green blog, one of the most isolated in the world.
It takes four to six days for a ship to reach the island. A lack of cleaning supplies and equipment has slowed efforts. The captured penguins cannot be fed until a shipment of frozen fish arrives. Giant petrels and fur seal pups have also been affected by the oil spill.
Here is a video that shows rockhopper penguins completely coated in oil.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the rockhopper penguin as an endangered species. Some 40 percent of the world’s population of rockhopper penguins lives on the Tristan da Cunha archipelago. More images of the Nightingale Island oil spill by National Geographic correspondent Andrew Evans can be seen at this site.
Most of the oil is still contained in the wrecked ship and, the New York Times Green blog notes, the thick oil slick that had surrounded Nightingale Island appears to have dissipated. Nonetheless, responders are trying to prevent the penguins and other animals from entering the water.
Photo by Robbo45.
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