Oil-soaked rockhopper penguins are being rehabilitated on Tristan da Cunha island, a UK overseas territory. Up to 10,000 birds may have been affected by an oil spill after a cargo vessel ran aground close to a penguin colony.
The island is home to half the world’s population of rockhopper penguins - about 150,000 birds. Local volunteers and conservationists from the RSPB are working at the makeshift rehabilitation centre.
Almost 1,500 oil-soaked birds are in the centre. The team is stabilising them with fluids, vitamins and charcoal to absorb ingested oil. Absorbent volcanic sand has been laid down on the floors of the centre's sheds.
"The first priority is to get food into them as the birds are very hungry," said Katrine Herian, the RSPB's project officer on Tristan da Cunha. "Islanders are trying locally caught five fingers, yellowtail and crayfish."
The swimming pool on Tristan has been drained of chlorinated water and partially refilled with clean water. Birds that are not as badly oiled as others have been released into the pool to recover and preen.
The RSPB says the birds will be washed once they are stabilised, and once heaters or infrared bulbs are available to keep them warm afterwards. If the penguins are cold, there is a risk of them developing pneumonia.
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