Penguins oiled by a spill in New Zealand are getting sweaters to help keep them warm and to prevent them from ingesting oil when they preen their contaminated feathers, some reports have recently stated. Ingested oil makes the penguins sick and can damage their organs, resulting in death. Also, petroleum oil in their feathers reduces the insulation capacity, and some oiled penguins die from hypothermia. Normally their own body oil secreted from a gland keeps their feathers functioning to insulate them from cold water.
Not all of the concerned observers are convinced the sweaters will help though. “Putting something like that on a penguin, it’s probably only going to stress it out even more than they already are. These are wild penguins, they haven’t had any interaction with humans. There’s already enough stress on a bird without trying to put a sweater on it,” said Natalie Clark, a birdkeeper at the Auckland Zoo. (Source: Patheos.com) She said she didn’t see any sweaters on penguins when she visited the penguin cleaning area. Another source has said the cleaned penguins are being kept warm with lamps and don’t need sweaters.
MSNBC reported the story in a way suggesting the sweaters are being used, but another source said the Tauranga wildlife center treating the penguins asked that no more sweaters be sent. The MSNBC story has photos of penguins wearing sweaters, but they might be years old and from a different spill. (For excellent photos of the ship and spill, visit the Atlantic’s website.)
Oiled penguins are cleaned with canola oil, detergent and water. Over 1,000 birds have died so far from the spill, but not all are penguins. Reports indicate hundreds of tons of oil have spilled into marine habitat from a cargo ship close to 800 feet long. It first struck Astrolabe Reef in calm conditions, and the oil has spread. Large waves were pounding the vessel and making it very difficult for salvage crews to attempt securing the oil still on board. There might also be some potentially harmful chemicals in the cargo.
Image Credit: Noodle Snacks