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Gulf Coast Oil Spill      
Disaster Relief


After the explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico, oil continued to leak into the Gulf for 86 days, impacting surrounding wildlife and environments.  On September 19, the U.S. Government declared the leaking well officially dead.  

With an estimated 5 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf, and a reported approximate of 600 species affected ' “ including the endangered Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle, Brown Pelicans, Dolphins, Sperm Whales, Blue fin Tuna, shrimp, fish etc. ' “ and many of whom were in their reproductive seasons at the time of the spill, it is clear there will be both short and long term impacts to the natural ecosystems of the area.

During the 5 month period when oil continued to leak from the well, the HSI team was busy with efforts to strategically prepare for emergency and long term relief needed for animals and environments affected by the oil spill.

Their focus was on providing assistance to rescue groups dedicated to the treating of oiled wildlife as well as to governmental and non-governmental organizations involved.

Watch the video below to see what is at stake.

Latest News

Dispatches from HSI on their on ground efforts in the Gulf Coast.

August 13, 2010

HSI supporting shelters in the Gulf

For the second time in a month, HSI's emergency disaster relief team in the U.S. teamed up with local organizations to help ease the burden of overwhelmed Louisiana animal shelters in the wake of the Gulf oil spill. Last Friday, we transported 107 dogs -- medium and large, the most difficult to place with new families -- from nine Louisiana shelters and rescue groups to our shelter partners on the East Coast to find new permanent homes.
July 19, 2010

As the devastating reports of the BP oil spill and its harmful effects continue, a little good news reinforces some hope for a better future. Thanks to a lawsuit filed by The Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Institute--along with petitions and letters from the public -- BP and the U.S. Coast Guard have agreed to stop allowing endangered sea turtles to be burned alive during surface-oil cleanup operations.

Concern was sparked when news spread that BP was using controlled fires as a method to clean up the oil via dragging together fire-resistant booms and then lighting the enclosed "burn box" on fire. It has been reported that as of July 01, 594 stranded sea turtles had been collected in the Gulf area since the oil spill. Of those, 441 were already dead when they were found.

The Care2 community was quick to react to the news -- with over 12,000 signatures on two petitions demanding BP to stop the torching of sea turtles in the Gulf. A big thank you to all who continue to make efforts to help sea turtles and other victims of the BP oil tragedy. This burning ban will help prevent even more unnecessary deaths.

June 23, 2010

From nesting turtles to larval fish, Gulf ecosystem ravaged

Reporting by Sharon Young ' “ member of HSI' s Oil Spill Assessment Team and field director for marine issues at HSUS.

A large disoriented tiger shark swims near a Florida Beach. Dolphins are photographed swimming in an oil slick. Pelicans flounder in thick oil.Wesee these ghastly images in the news every day.The impacts of the recent disaster caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig continue to spread from the largest creatures to the smallest.


As part of the HSI team recently in the Gulfto assess wildlife impacts of the oil, I saw dying hermit crabs and other small creatures struggling in oily tide pools or unable to walk along the beach. Further up the food chain, I saw dolphins frolicking in the bays where some of them spend their entire lives. Although some live offshore, some spend their entire lives resident in a particular bay. Oil entering the only home they know can leave the dolphins no place to go.

The team also visited de-oiling facilities and saw the plight of the oiled birds first hand.It was a study in contrasting beauty and devastation.

Nesting and Mating Season at its Height

No time is good for a massive oil spill, but the timing could not have been worse for the Gulf of Mexico. Endangered turtles are flocking to its beaches to nest, sharks and giant bluefin tuna are gathered there to spawn in the only known mating area for some of these species. Countless bird species are in their nesting colonies and dabbling for food along the shoreline.

The oil affects virtually every kind of marine life in the rich ecosystems of the Gulf, from bottom to top of the food chain. As oil spreads in the water column and oil-consuming microbes proliferate, oxygen is depleted. This oxygen poor environment can drive fish and other marine life into shallow waters in less affected areas.

A Chain Reaction

The recent increase in numbers of deepwater sharks and large fish in coastal waters may be a result of chasing the schools of smaller fish that have moved there to avoid deeper oxygen-depleted waters. Oil also clogs the fragile gills of fish, crabs and other marine residents, preventing them from getting oxygen. The dispersants used to break up the oil are themselves deadly neuro-toxins.

Even air breathing animals such as turtles, dolphins and whales are affected because oil on the surface can contaminate their prey or be inhaled as they rise to breathe. The incidence of dolphins stranding on beaches is elevated all around the Gulf.Hundreds of endangered turtles have died, and now researchers are attempting to capture them at sea before they can swim into the oil. Some of these species such as Kemp' s Ridley turtles are already teetering on the brink of extinction.

On the surface, large floating rafts of a dense seaweed called Sargassum host micro-communities of larval fish, tiny marine creatures, crabs and juvenile sea turtles who feed on the abundant life in the Sargassum mats. These mats can also collect debris and oil and thereby doom the young generations of fish and turtles who start life sheltered in them.Deep below,sub-surface oiling of deep water coral beds that teem with life and are the base of a rich ecosystem is of considerable concern.

No End in Sight

The oil continues to spew from the broken well. Dispersants continue to be sprayed. Mats of Sargassum continue to be burned at sea. We may never know the full impact of this disaster.

Though we mourn for the dying birds and dead dolphins and turtles and even the tiny oil-drenched crab, they are simply a visible sign of a destruction that threatens the health of an entire ecosystem. Most of the destruction and loss of life will remain unseen and unaccounted but likely to affect the Gulf ecosystem and the animals and people who depend on it for years to come.

June 17, 2010

Gulf Coast footage: No end in sight

The HSI oil spill assessment team spent six days visiting the Gulf Coast to assess the impacts of the largest oil spill in US history on wildlife and wildlands. The team left the Gulf Coast on Tuesday and is now preparing a report on their assessment which will include recommendations on additional resources needed to care for animals impacted by the catastrophic oil spill. HSI's US president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, says the plan is to ratchet up the government response in a dramatic way to meet this crisis.

June 16, 2010
HSI oil assessment team leaves the Gulf Coast to prepare next steps

On ground report from HSI's director for the US's eastern regional office, Laura Bevan.

Our tour of the Gulf Coast completed, most members of HSI's oil spill assessment teamhave headed home. After four hectic days of traveling by air, boat and car to visit beaches, marshes and the deepwater of the Gulf, the real work is about to begin. Now everything we experienced has to be assimilated into our respective banks of knowledge, churned out as individual recommendations and then merged into one final assessment report.

On our final day, we were able to visit the bird recovery station in Fort Jackson, La. where the International Bird Rescue Research Centerhas the task of receiving the oiled birds mostly from the hard hit Barataria Bay. The heat is oppressive, especially for workers who deal directly with the oiled birds and who must wear protective clothing to keep the oil from getting on their skin. It is a meticulous process to de-oil and wash the birds time and time again, but the only way to free them from the sludge.

Two workers wash the oil off of a pelican at the Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Fort Jackson, La. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

More than 500 birds, mostly pelicans, have been rescued and brought to the center; unknown numbers are out in the restricted area awaiting rescue - or who may become new victims. Once clean, many will be taken to the east coast of Florida to be released, with the hope that nature will not compel them to find their way back to their home and back into the oil.

A pelican is cleaned at the Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Fort Jackson, La. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

At the Audubon Nature Institute we visited outside of New Orleans, sea turtles are being saved. About 60 turtles of all types are going through asimilar cleaning processand more come in each day. Unlike the birds, the sea turtles will be held indefinitely because instinct will drive them to return to their homes no matter how far away they are taken.

Both wildlife recovery operations are impressive and have plans to expand. As new oil continues to gush out of the broken pipe, and the existing oil continues to spread and be moved by gulf currents to new beaches and wildlands, the demand for these facilities is sure to increase.

Similar wildlife recovery centers are found across the northern Gulf Coast and more will be needed in coming weeks. But those centers are dealing with just a fraction of the animals most visibly impacted by the oil; they can do nothing for the smaller sea creatures and larger ecosystems on which life in the Gulf Coast depends. Without these elements so critical for survival, the birds, turtles and other rescued wildlife will have little or nothing left of a home to which they can ever return.

June 15, 2010
HSI's US president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, on the ground assessing the worst oil spill disaster in history and how it is being managed.

Not long after the explosion at its Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers nearly two months ago, BP told the press that the damaged offshore drilling unit was spewing out 1,000 barrels a day. Then, under pressure to confirm that number, BP said it might be 5,000 barrels a day. Over the past few weeks, that number has climbed, and climbed again. The latest evidence indicates that the offshore drilling unit is now gushing 40,000 barrels a day, and perhaps as many as70,000 barrels a day. If we take the higher figure and subtract the 15,000 barrels that BP is recovering each day and multiply it by 57 days, that's more than 3 million barrels that has been drawn from the Earth and into the ocean. With 42 gallons in a barrel, that's more than 130,000,000 gallons spewing into one of the most fragile marine ecosystems in the world, with endangered turtles, recovering brown pelicans, dolphins, and countless other species.

The devastating Exxon Valdez spill ' the effects of which are still being felt today' was 257,000 barrels, or 10,800,000 gallons. That spill tarred 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean. To this day, experts report that you can dig just a little below the land surface in some areas, and still find oil now two decades later.

The Deepwater Horizon well is producing the equivalent of a new Exxon Valdez spill every four or five days. And it's happening in a subtropical ecosystem that is teeming with life.

Traveling throughout the Gulf during the past couple of days did not leave me feeling assured that the response, led by BP and the federal government, is adequate. They are dealing with a spreading menace, now infiltrating a vast area covering four states. The birds and other marine life there are in imminent peril.

Today, executives from the five largest oil companies' BP America, Conoco Phillips, Chevron, Shell, and Exxon Mobil' testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. BP spent .06 percent of its profits on technology to prevent catastrophic risks, according to Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., put up on television screens images of the companies' disaster response plans, and they were strikingly similar.At least three of the reports, in their section on the Gulf, talked about walruses when they discussed wildlife. Since walruses have not been seen in the Gulf at least since the last Ice Age, the plan shows some obvious deficiencies.

The companies' assurances that they had this under control were overstated at every step of the process

June 14, 2010
The Humane Society of the United States Releases Assessment of BP Oil Spill at Press Conference in Plaquemines Parish Today. HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle calls the impact on wildlife "devastating"
 At a press conference in Plaquemines Parish, La., today, The HSUS' President and CEO Wayne Pacelle and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., provided a preliminary assessment of the impact of the massive and ongoing BP Oil Spill on wildlife. Mr. Pacelle and Senator Vitter also said that the response to the needs of wildlife ' needs to be stepped up in a dramatic way.' 
' The Fort Jackson wildlife care center is doing outstanding work, but there is no comprehensive and strategic effort to find oiled wildlife in the bays and marshlands. We need more trained personnel on boats working in the Gulf, and we need more boats deployed to search in a more systematic way for the animals in distress,'  Pacelle said.

Earlier today, Pacelle and Vitter traveled to Grand Isle, Queen Bess Island and the Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, which is taking in many of the oiled wildlife from the spill. The HSUS team plans to visit the Plaquemines Parish Animal Welfare Society today, which was the recipient, along with the St. Bernard Parish shelter, of 12.5 tons of pet food coordinated by The HSUS last week to help residents struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the spill. The team visited the Audubon Nature Institute, which has taken in sea turtles affected by the oil spill, and was impressed with the care staffers there are providing oil-slicked turtles.

Vitter said, ' I really appreciate Wayne Pacelle and The HSUS for organizing this assessment as it was heartbreaking today to see all the wildlife affected by the spill. As I wrote in my recent letter to Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard and Dr. Rowan W. Gould of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we must continue to direct our best resources to find and rescue the impacted animals and wildlife.' 

Over the weekend, the team surveyed by helicopter and boat the waters of the Gulf, travelling from coastal Louisiana to a stretch of Northwest Florida, which is beginning to feel the effects of the spill. While in Alabama, a large oil slick surfaced out of the Gulf to begin its assault on Orange Beach and Dauphin Island. At the Mississippi Beach, south of Pascagoula, small tar balls and brown water lapped at the shoreline. A local wildlife rehabilitator there, Robin Bush' a native of coastal Mississippi and a Hurricane Katrina survivor' described for the team the struggles both animals and humans alike have encountered since Katrina, and now, in the midst of the BP oil spill.

Pacelle assembled a team of experts to assess the effects of the spill on wildlife, and the group had spent the past few days touring the Gulf, wildlife rehabilitation centers and a local zoo taking oil-slicked turtles, leading up to the press conference Monday. The team consists of Debra Parsons-Drake, The HSUS' Animal Care Centers' senior director; Laura Bevan, The HSUS' East Coast regional director; Sharon Young, The HSUS' Marine Mammal Issues specialist; Barry Kellogg, Humane Society International veterinary medical doctor; Jim Reed, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust habitat biologist; Lynn Miller, International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, expert in oiled wildlife (bird) impacts; and Ed Clark, Wildlife Center of Virginia, Clinical Wildlife Health Initiative.

Update: Report from the Gulf: Tracking the Oil Spill's Impact

HSI's US president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, reports after the second day of HSI's extensive field assessment in the Gulf.

Yesterday, I picked up globules of oil on Orange Beach in Alabama and surveyed evidence of the Gulf spill in Mississippi. Today, hosted by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, we concentrated on Louisiana, starting with a visit to Grand Isle, the only human-inhabited barrier island in the state. We then took a boat ride south to Queen Bess Island, which is a major rookery teeming with brown pelicans and other birds. The island is alive with activity, but it is completely surrounded by a bright orange boom and by a concentric white absorbent boom within it, in order to fend off the oil that has been buffeting the island. The orange boom looked like it was covered in chocolate syrup and the white boom had turned a darker hue, absorbing oil that was on its way to the island. Despite the booms, the rocky shores of the island were covered in oil and we saw birds with oil and many who had not yet felt its effects. When we were there, workers were pulling up the white booms and replacing them with new ones to absorb more oil.

The color of caution: orange booms line beaches along the Gulf Coast. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Sen. Vitter and I then went to the oneestablished bird care center in Plaquemines Parishand saw hundreds of birds in various stages of treatment. Some had just arrived and were dark with oil. Others were in tents recovering, cleaned of as much oil as possible. The teams working there are dealing with sweltering heat and working hard. They arein need of more resourcesto handle the inflow of birds, which are sure to increase in number. They are running a top flight operation, and it is led by the very capable people who run the International Bird Rescue Center.

Finally, today, we went to the Audubon Nature Institute, which istreating and caring for oiled turtles. They've taken in about 50 turtles, most of them endangered Kemp's ridley turtles. They are mainly juveniles, and they are swimming around in big tubs reserved just for them. The facility seems to have all systems in place, for spotting turtles in trouble and retrieving and then treating and rehabilitating them. Like us, the staff there fear what they are not seeing' the turtles in distress no one has spotted yet.

The worst part of the equation is that the Deepwater Horizon continues to spew out thousands of gallons of oil every day' as Sen. Vitter says, ' there's a new oil spill every day.'  This is a monumental crisis, and it is still unfolding. It is already the largest spill in U.S. history, and it is getting bigger and the oil reaching farther. The fragile Gulf Coast is under siege from this spreading menace of oil. No animals in the ecosystem' above, at, or below the surface' will escape its effects.' 

June 12, 2010

Troubled Waters in Louisiana

by Laura Bevan

On Friday, our assessment team surveyed Louisiana' s marshes and coastline from the sky. Viewing the massive Mississippi River delta plains from 1,300 feet offered a sobering perspective on the challenges of keeping it safe from the encroaching oil. While our helicopter was not allowed in the restricted air space over the heavily oiled areas, visible oil sheens signaled the dangers ahead.

Marshes along the Gulf Coast extend the shoreline to the equivalent of 7,000 miles. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

' The task at hand is enormous' the magnitude of this event is beyond what we have experienced before in oil spills,'  said Lynn Miller, a conservation biologist who specializes in the impacts of oiling on wildlife.' Today' s flight over the marshlands, waterways and landscape reinforced the vastness of the shoreline. How do we prevent oiling in such an expansive and porous landscape? Booming is of use in limited ways. And there is not enough booming to protect the coastline.' 

Plotting the course. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

HSI scientist Sharon Young, an expert on marine mammal conservation in the Gulf of Mexico, reported seeing booms already in place in a number of areas.' A visitor in the refueling stop indicated that he owned a fishing camp near Belle Isle, La.; he had his own booms that he put in and took out as needed. Some of the booms we observed appeared to have been erected around private dwellings and/or breakwater areas, and it seems that at least some portion of them may be privately owned. If so, they may be of no use in protecting sensitive wildlife habitat.' 

Team members shared concerns for the integrity of the marsh system should a hurricane push oil further inland. The channels cut into the marshes appear to offer direct pathways for oil to enter the largely unprotected areas.

On Saturday, the assessment team will tour by boat parts of the marsh coastline heavily impacted by oil.

Laura Bevan is director of the eastern regional office for The HSUS. She has been with the organization since 1987 and is known for her extensive experience in working natural disasters, starting with Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She has responded and help directed animal relief efforts in numerous hurricanes, wildfires and floods.

June 11, 2010

HSI Scientists Arrive in Louisiana

by Laura Bevan

The HSI Oil Spill Assessment Teamgathered for the first time last night in New Orleans to go over the plans for the next few days and lay down the ground rules for how the assessment will be conducted.

As the dark oil crawls its way across the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico (and heads for my own beautiful coastal stomping grounds in the Florida Panhandle), there is both an eagerness to get to the task and see the damage first hand, but also the awareness that damage has been done and is continuing to be done to this major ecosystem.

The team members are some of the top names in their fields of study of ocean systems, coastal habitats, and wildlife of all shapes and sizes. It is impressive to listen to their depth of knowledge and hear how the issuesareinterrelated. The more they talk, the more I realize how large the task is that we are undertaking.

Over the next few days, the HSI team will tour by helicopter and boat the coastal areas surrounding Louisiana. During that time we will gather as much information as possible, understanding that there will be much more that we won' t be able to see in our time here. So much of what is happening in this man-made disaster is under the water or deep in the Louisiana marshes. Those marshes reach hundreds of fingers out into the Gulf, with a coastline that is the equivalent of 7,000 miles! That fact alone is shocking, but when you consider the depth and breadth of the Gulf of Mexico, the magnitude of our effort is sobering.

During our visit here, team members will gather information, assess impacts,and determine which questions still need to be asked and answered by those in charge. Our goal is to be honest, objective, and productive: to be part of developing plans and proposing solutions. In the end, that is the only way to save our Gulf of Mexico, its coast and all the creatures big and small, winged or finned, which depend on it.

Laura Bevan is director of the eastern regional office for The HSUS. She has been with the organization since 1987 and is known for her extensive experience in working natural disasters, starting with Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She has responded and help directed animal relief efforts in numerous hurricanes, wildfires and floods.

June 10,2010

HSI assembles expert team for first-hand look

As oil continues to spewfrom the Deepwater Horizon well, it seems there' s no end in sight. The HSI has assembled an expert team to assess the impact of the largest oil spill in U.S. history on birds, marine mammals and other wildlife. We'll be working to identify any gaps that exist in the current response and to prepare for the long-term effects of this cataclysm.

Our assessment team includes Debra Parsons-Drake, The HSUS, senior director, animal care centers; Laura Bevan, The HSUS, regional director;Sharon Young, The HSUS, marine mammal issues;Barry Kellogg, Humane Society International, veterinary medical doctor;Jim Reed, Wildlife Land Trust, habitat biologist;Lynn Miller, International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, Ph.D. in oiled wildlife (bird) impacts; and Ed Clark, Wildlife Center of Virginia, Clinical Wildlife Health Initiative.

HSI Oil Spill Assessment Team:

Debra Parsons-Drake Debra is the senior director for the animal care centers operated by HSI in the US. She previously served as director of field services and as director of emergency sheltering.

Laura Bevan  Laura is director of the eastern regional office for HSI in the US. She has been with the organization since 1987 and is known for her extensive experience in working natural disasters, starting with Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She has since responded and helped direct animal relief efforts in numerous hurricanes, wildfires and floods. In 2004, Laura coordinated companion animal response efforts for the state during the four storms that hit Florida within a six week period. In 2005, she was team leader for HSI' s Hurricane Katrina response in Mississippi and directing rescue efforts and overseeing emergency sheltering of companion animals for the state.

Sharon Young  Sharon is field director for marine issues for HSI in the US. Before joining the organization in 1992, she spent more than 10 years in field research on marine mammals (with publications largely focused on feeding and foraging ecology). She also served on the Cape Cod Stranding Network.

Barry Kellogg, VMD  Dr. Kellog is senior veterinary advisor for Humane Society International. He has been involved with disaster response for the last two decades at many levels on the local, national and international levels. He has taught disaster preparedness and response both nationally and internationally. Barry is currently the senior veterinary advisor for both The HSUS and HSI. Most recently he has been involved with bringing animal welfare to the forefront internationally by educating the international community on spay/neuter and its role in animal welfare. Dr. Kellogg has taught and helped establish clinics in Venezuela, China, The Philippines, Egypt and Mexico.

Lynn Miller  Miller is a biologist with International Wildlife Rehabilitators Council. Her background is in veterinary technology, conservation biology and environmental toxicology. She is an expert in oiled wildlife (birds) impacts. She has been a wildlife rehabilitator for the past 25 years.

Jim Reed Reed is director of stewardship for the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust where he is responsible for the management and protection of the Trust' s properties in 38 states across the US and seven other countries.

Ed Clark  A national leader in the field of conservation for more than 30 years, Clark is co-founder and president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, one of the world' s leading teaching and research hospitals for wildlife medicine. In 2007, the center was named Conservation Organization of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation.

June 2, 2010

Oil Taking Terrible Toll on Gulf Wildlife

In warehouses now converted to emergency wildlife centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, highly trained workers are caring for wildlife impacted by the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

By the end of May, 832 animals had been brought in to these special emergency centers operated by the two officially designated oiled wildlife response groups: International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) and Tri-State Bird Rescue.

Seventeen of the birds were treated and released away from the spill area. Sadly, though, it was too late for the vast majority of the animals' 561 birds, 244 sea turtles, and 27 mammals collected along the Gulf Coast had died before they could be removed from the toxic environment. Among sea turtles collected so far, only 17 were alive. Veterinarians are doing animal autopsies' called necropsies' to determine whether the animals were victims of the oil spill. Documenting this wildlife mortality is critical as the enormous environmental crisis unfolds.

At the emergency center in Fort Jackson, La., IBRRC director Jay Holcomb knows all too well what to expect: He has lead more than 200 oil spill responses since 1988.

"T o prepare for an oil spill that currently has no foreseeable end in sight,'  he said, ' I looked at the closest experience I had to something like this. That was the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.' 

' Similarly, that spill covered vast areas of ocean and threatened many bird species. To prepare for large numbers of birds, we set up oiled bird rehab centers that would work for small amounts of birds and expand to thousands if needed."

Trained Wildlife Specialists on Hand

Debra Parsons-Drake, The HSI US senior director for its animal care centers, has been touring the Gulf coast emergency wildlife care operations. She says the four centers have sufficient staff from IBRRC and Tri-State, as well as enough of their trained workers available right now.

' We are fortunate that highly trained, skilled, and experienced oiled wildlife specialists are on the ground right now in the Gulf region,'  Drake said. ' All the people they have trained over the years are ready, willing and able to respond. We could not ask for better people handling the rehabilitation efforts."

In the event that volunteers are needed, HSI has facilitated the required OSHA safety training for 190 National Disaster Animal Rescue Team volunteers. Additionally, about 65 HSI staffers have taken the training, mostly those from the SPCA Wildlife Care Center in Southeast Florida, HSI' s largest wildlife care center. Hundreds of the center' s community volunteers also took the training.

' We are ready, if needed, to deploy quickly,'  Drake said.

Ready, Watching and Waiting

At the Wildlife Care Center, clinic operations director Dr. Stefan Harsch is ready to help. The facility, which operates as a trauma center for South Florida' s extensive wildlife menagerie, is prepared to share staff and resources if needed.The center' s staff could be called upon later to assist in stabilizing affected animals.

In talking about the special needs of oiled wildlife, Harsh said, ' The oiled animals are usually very stressed and exhausted. They can' t fly, they can' t swim, they lose their waterproofing and so they lose their insulation. Many are hypothermic. Most are exhausted.' 

Harsch said he worries it might be too late for many of the birds and other wildlife who call the Gulf Coast home. He suspects there are many pelagic birds' like gannets' who have landed on the Gulf to feed, and never surfaced. After contamination, they lose their buoyancy, their power to fly, and, eventually, their lives.

' They might not be washed to shore; they might just be gone,'  he said. ' What we' re seeing is only the tip of the iceberg here. What' s going on in the ocean, nobody knows.' 

For now, Harsch, and others like him, can only wait and worry.

HSI has offered to take de-oiled birds for long-term rehabilitation at the center and to take any birds in need of prolonged care. Marine mammals and other native wildlife would be taken by other groups specializing in their care.

' We will have everything in place here. All of the vet staff has been trained, and we are ready if they ask us,'  he said. ' We have to wait and see and hope for the best. Right now, we are just watching, but we are prepared.

Debra Parsons-Drake, senior director of The HSI's five animal care centers, was on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi last week to meet with and pledge support to those officials preparing to lead wildlife rescues in the Gulf oil spill.

May 17, 2010

Supporting Wildlife Rescue Responders - HSI offers resources, assistance in the Gulf

Debra Parsons-Drake, senior director of The HSI's five animal care centers, was on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi last week to meet with and pledge support to those officials preparing to lead wildlife rescues in the Gulf oil spill.

Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, working under the direction of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, isoverseeing the rehabilitation of oiled wildlife. They are coordinating with the International Bird Rescue Research Center and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network to clean and treat any affected animals.

To date, five oiled birds have been treated, but that number could increase dramatically with shifting winds and currents. HSI will make available whatever resources, expertise and assistance the groups may need.

We're also on standby at our Wildlife Care Center in South Florida, one of the largest wildlife rehab facilities in the country. We're geared up in the event the facility and its experts' veterinarians, technicians, wildlife rehabilitators' are needed for any reason.

In addition to the WCC, HSI owns and operates four other animal centers that are at the ready. The two wildlife rehab facilities, Cape Wildlife Center in Cape Cod and The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Southern California, and two sanctuaries, Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in East Texas and Duchess in Oregon, rescue and treat wild, exotic and/or domestic animals ill-affected by human interaction.

May10, 2010

Preparing for Oil Spill - Wildlife Care Center gearing up to help affected animal

May 7, 2010

Oil Affected Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles - Deepwater Horizon response, rescue plans

The Wildlife Branch of the Unified Command has organized trained wildlife care providers and investigators to assist sea birds, marine mammals and sea turtles that will be impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The marine mammal and sea turtle response teams include authorized personnel from the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program and the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network who respond to stranded marine animals in the upper Gulf of Mexico and consist of experts from federal and state agencies, academia, wildlife and veterinary professionals and zoo/aquaria facilities. The overall response will build upon the local stranding programs but will call upon the national network to assist as needed. This is an outstanding example of collaborative conservation efforts that are being brought together to assist marine animal wildlife in this oil spill event.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have identified primary responders and rehabilitation facilities in the local areas for live cetaceans, manatees and sea turtles. Facilities have also been identified and are being readied for necropsies of dead marine mammals and sea turtles. Federal and state agencies are partnering with bird rehabilitation experts to provide facilities and care for sea birds.

Given the long time frame for this effort, experts from other areas of the country are also being identified and brought into the region. These are personnel who are highly trained in the special needs required for handling and treating marine mammal or sea turtles and will be used as the response progresses and as needed to assist the local rescue teams.

Additional rehabilitation and necropsy facilities outside of the upper Gulf region have already been identified and are on standby to assist or receive animals if circumstances demand.

May 4, 2010

Refuge for Gulf Coast Wildlife - HSI animal centers, experts prepared to help animals of oil spill disaster

Dr. Roberto Aguilar, staff veterinarian at ourCape Wildlife Centerin Barnstable, Mass., spoke with us briefly about the massive and ongoing oil spill threatening havoc on the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf Coast region.In addition to our emergency responders and triage equipment ready for immediate deployment, we asked Dr. Aguilar what kind of role The HSI's animal care centers would play in rescue and rehab efforts.

Dr. Aguilar is an associate researcher at theNew Zealand Wildlife Health Centre, one of the largest oil spill networks in the world.

Q: Can you give us an overview of the situation for wildlife?

A: The Gulf region is diverse and full of unique wildlife who almost certainly will be compromised' from sea turtles and sperm whales to countless species of shorebirds and migratory avian species. Though marine mammals are the purview of specialized stranding networks, an immense variety of mammals, birds and reptiles will be affected. The oil spill affecting the area is thick, tarry toxic crude capable of inflicting not only short-term damage to adult animals but also severe long-term effects on critical breeding populations. Dips in wildlife populations can be expected (as have been seen after all major oil spills). The fact that most of southern Louisiana and parts of other coastlines are critical wetlands makes the dimension of the tragedy even greater. The area represents significant spawning grounds for fish, nesting areas for birds, as well as coastal wildlife; and, tragically, the breeding season is at its height.The diversity of species and the unique requirements of each in dealing with the chemicals poisoning their systems require specialized training' without it, the responders pose a threat to the animals' survival chances, and both the animals and the hazardous materials pose risks to the humans.

Q: How is HSI able to help?

A: We have staff and volunteers trained and qualified to respond in the event our assistance is requested. Additionally, we have staff located in all of the Gulf Coast states. They've reached out to emergency management, wildlife centers, and shelters to offer support and resources when and if needed. Our trained responders and a fleet of fully equipped transport vehicles are prepared to mobilize. As one of the largest and most diverse providers of direct animal care in the country, our wildlife rehab experts at The HSI animal centers stand ready to support local, regional and national responses to the spill threatening the region and its wildlife. Our shared experience will meet the needs should an opportunity to treat any of the affected Gulf Coastanimals come up, including issues that may not be directly related to the spill. We also are capable of housing wildlife for a stabilization period if those resources are needed. Our highly trained and experienced staff at theWildlife Care Centerin South Florida,The Fund for Animals Wildlife Centerin California, and Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts has dealt extensively with wildlife in trouble due to human activity. This has included everything from a tiny one-ounce wren caught in a glue trap (a situation which presents similar problems to treating oiled animals) to eiders covered in diesel fuel, to coyotes and bobcats hit by cars. Our Florida center is one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities in the country, seeing more than 12,000 animals a year. There, we treat many of the same species at risk from the oil spill' brown pelicans, egrets, royal terns and others.The center is gearing up for an immediate response to treating animals on site if necessary. Flexibility, experience, preparedness, training, and patience all come in to play in participating in a well planned, sustained, long term effective cleaning and restoration effort. Our goal will be, as always, to effectively help, treat and recover as many wild animals as possible.

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