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SoCal center helps clean birds in BP oil spill

June 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Southern California bird-rescue group is sending a team of volunteers to the Gulf Coast. The goal is to save as many birds as possible after the British Petroleum oil-rig disaster.Pelicans at the International Bird Rescue and Research Center are nearly ready to be released into the wild. A team of 20 volunteers have set up rescue centers along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, preparing to deal with the birds.

In Louisiana alone, more than 200 birds are reportedly being treated.

Erica Lander, assistant rehabilitation manager at the center, just returned from the Gulf Coast. She worked on birds that washed ashore in Alabama. She says it's a time-consuming process to clean each bird.

"It's taking 45 minutes to an hour plus to do the wash, so it's a very stressful thing for them," said Lander. "We hydrate them, we give them intravenous hydration if needed, medication, get them some food and then, as they're strong enough, then they go through the washing process."

The rescue center and another rescue group have set up rescue centers in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

"We don't necessarily wash the birds immediately when they come in because we want to make sure that they don't have any other injuries," said Lander. "We want to make sure they're healthy enough to go through the stressful washing process, especially with how thick most of the birds are coming in, oiled, how significantly they're oiled."

So what's the survival rate of a pelican once it's been dipped in oil? According to the center, once they get a hold of the bird, it's pretty good.

"We have been doing this work for 40 years, and we are International Bird Rescue Research Center, and that research has meant that over that time, we've had a lot of success, and of course it varies, based on the type of animal, the conditions, how quickly we can get to them," said Paul Kelway, associate director, International Bird Rescue and Research Center.

So where do you take the birds once they're been cleaned up and and rehabilitated? Kelway says the birds are being taken, for now, to the east coast of Florida.

British Petroleum is paying for their rescue efforts.

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