Ever since the oil drilling platform exploded and sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, last week, I've been holding my breath. First, I was worrying about the workers involved in this terrible industrial accident.
And secondly, I was bracing to hear about the scope of the environmental impact. Petroleum is hugely damaging to animals, and natural systems. A blob of oil the size of a nickel is enough to kill a waterbird, and this now-uncapped well has the potential to leak more oil than has ever been spilled in history.
Long-time blog readers will remember that I volunteered on the bird rescue effort after the Cosco Busan container ship ran into the San Francisco Bay, spilling tens of thousands of gallons of bunker fuel into the Bay. I also worked on the rehab team when so many birds in the Pacific Northwest were "slimed" by an algae bloom that birds were sent to California for care.
I've seen the Oiled Wildlife Response Network in action. They are a confederation of over twenty-five organizations (universities, wildlife rehab facilities, aquaria, and researchers) who allied after the Exxon Valdez spill. They are ready, around the clock, to respond to disasters, just like this one. They have the knowledge, the trained personnel, the gear, and the structure to help save the lives of any animals affected by oil spills.
Oiled Wildlife Response Network blog
International Bird Rescue Research Center blog
At the moment, the teams seem to be setting up their veterinary hospitals, and are no doubt waiting to see how many animals are affected by the explosion of the oil rig.
If you pay close attention to the following video, you'll see a woman with short dark hair. That's Rebecca, from Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Delaware. I worked with her on the Cosco Busan response. Her organization flew people out from the East Coast, to help with a spill in California, and now the Californians and the folks from the Chesapeake Bay are helping out in the Gulf of Mexico. That's beauty of this response network. Everyone comes together to save the lives of animals.