Post-Release Studies of Rehabilitated Oiled Wildlife

As January and Mike’s last blogs indicated, many of us were in beautiful Tallinn, Estonia at the beginning of October attending the 10th International Conference on the Effects of Oil on Wildlife.  I have attached a few pictures for your viewing pleasure

Tallinn Main Square

Main Square in old town section of Tallinn

crew by Town Hall

Dave Jessup (OSPR), Yvonne Addassi (OSPR), Mike Ziccardi (OWCN), January Bill (OWCN), Greg and Wendy Massey (OWCN) standing in front of Town Hall.

At the conference, in a session on post release studies of rehabilitated oiled wildlife chaired by the eminent Kees Camphuysen, I was fortunate to be able to give a summary talk imaginatively titled (I jest): Post-Release Studies of Rehabilitated Oiled Wildlife.

For this talk, I summarized all of the studies that I could find (published or not) that looked at survival and behavior of animals that had been oiled, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.  In all, I have found about 35-40 studies on about 15 species of animals; however, half of the studies are on two species – the African Penguin and the Common Murre (or Guillemot as they are called in Europe).

Table.  Number of studies that looked at survival and behavior of animals that had been oiled, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Species Number Proportion
African Penguin 11 0.34
Guillemot/Common Murre 5 0.16
Little Penguin 3 0.09
American Coot 2 0.06
Brown Pelican 1 0.03
Cape Gannet 1 0.03
Harbor Seal 1 0.03
River Otter 1 0.03
Sea Otter 1 0.03
Snowy Plover 1 0.03
Surf Scoter 1 0.03
Swift Tern 1 0.03
Western Gull 1 0.03
ducks 1 0.03
seabirds 1 0.03
turtles 1 0.03

The largest and longest running data sets regarding the rehabilitation of oiled wildlife are almost all focused on the African Penguin.  Since 1968, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) has treated over 50,000 oiled African Penguins.  Using SANCCOB data, Peter Ryan (2003. in Rehabilitation of oiled African Penguins: a conservation success story. BirdLife South Africa and the Avian Demography Unit, South Africa) estimated that the wild African Penguin population (163,000 adults in 2002) was 19% larger than it would have been without rehabilitation work, clear evidence that the rehabilitation of oiled wildlife can have positive effects on populations of wildlife.  It is also clear that we need to continue to evaluate and to improve our techniques for treating oiled wildlife and to follow up efforts with well designed post-release studies.

– Nils

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