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Rena oil spill could take years for wildlife/envi to recover

Rena oil spill could take years for wildlife and environment to recover, WWF

Conservation organisation WWF-New Zealand says it could take many years before the full impact of the Rena oil spill on birds and other wildlife is known.

Maritime New Zealand today reported hundreds of dead oiled birds had been found, and 92 were being cared for at the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery Centre.

WWF-New Zealand Marine Advocate Bob Zuur is working as part of the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery team in the Bay of Plenty. Speaking this afternoon from the beach at Mount Maunganui, he said:

“We’ve been scaling the rocks looking for wildlife, it’s difficult to see the birds and they appear frightened. We’ve rescued three little blue penguins, but collected many more dead birds. Penguins don’t normally come ashore during the day, the ones we’re finding are pretty ill.”

He said that as penguins come to shore at night, it was likely more live oiled penguins would be recovered by rescue teams this evening after night-fall.

WWF is deeply concerned for wildlife affected by the spill. Mr Zuur said: “We saw a shag about 20 metres off shore, flapping in the water, trying to clean itself - it couldn’t fly, it couldn’t dive, it didn’t know what to do, and we couldn’t reach it. It was heartbreaking.”

Mr Zuur said that petrels were the most common species he and his team had discovered dead: “The majority of birds we’re finding dead are diving petrels, and also penguins and shags. Many of these birds are nesting at this time of year.”

He said some of the dead birds could only be identified by their wingspan, and were so covered in the tacky oil they were otherwise ‘unrecognisable’.

WWF is particularly concerned about the endangered New Zealand dotterel and the fairy terns. “The NZ dotterel and the fairy tern are already threatened and it’s possible that if the situation worsens, the local population could be severely depleted,” said Mr Zuur. WWF has welcomed the news that the National Oiled Wildlife Centre had pre-emptively caught some New Zealand dotterels deemed at risk.

“There are around 1500 New Zealand dotterels, in lots of little local populations, found on open coastal shores. There are only a couple of dozen New Zealand dotterels in the population near Maketu.”

Along with concerns for wildlife, WWF warned that the full extent of the environmental disaster may not be realised for some time, and is likely to worsen. WWF will continue to support wildlife recovery and restoration efforts and to offer technical support and assistance in this emergency response phase.”

ENDS

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