Tim and I just returned from a trip to the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center (LAOBCEC) this past weekend. The purpose of this trip was to meet with Graciela Guerra and two architect colleagues from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) in Ensenada. The meeting included a tour of LAOBCEC so that they could get ideas of how to build a similar facility in Ensenada (but at a smaller scale) that would have the capacity to house, clean, and care for oiled animals in the event of an oil spill. There is no similar facility in all of Mexico, so this would be the first of its kind, and in a country that has very few rehabilitation facilities for wildlife (and none in Baja California), this is a huge step! But in order to understand the lead-up to this meeting it is important to get some of the background history. In giving you some of the history, though, it is a bit like shooting myself in the foot, as I should have written a blog about it way back in April when our meeting before this one took place. Better late than never, I suppose! So here is a blog (within a blog) of a long overdue tale of how all this came about.
It began about two years ago when I gave an OWCN overview talk at the annual MEXUS meeting. MEXUS Plan is the result of a cooperative agreement that was established in 1980 between Mexico and the U.S. in case of an oil spill. After the presentation, Graciela, a biochemist at UABC, approached me. She was impressed with our system of taking care of oiled wildlife in California and wanted to know if we could help them set up something similar in Baja. From that moment on, Graciela was tireless in her efforts to round up enthusiastic people from different agencies that had a similar interest. As a result, Graciela put together a formal group that had their first official meeting in September 2013 and is known as the Oiled Wildlife Team, or “Equipo de Atención a Fauna Silvestre Empetrolada” (EAFSE). So that’s how it came about that several months later, Mike, Chris, Nancy, and I traveled to Ensenada to give a two-day training on as much oil spill response stuff as we could fit in to those days (including effects of oil on wildlife, how to capture animals safely, how to stabilize birds on the beaches, and how to care for oiled wildlife). The training ended with a tabletop drill.
One of the subjects that was brought up several times during the two days was that proper training on how to capture and care for oiled wildlife can only go so far without a dedicated and specialized center that can properly and safely clean and house these animals. And getting animals across the border during a spill has its own challenges and time constraints, so having a local facility would be of great benefit to the animals.
So this brings us back full circle and to the reason why Graciela and her colleagues traveled to San Pedro. We look forward to continuing our assistance in this process, along with Graciela and the rest of the EAFSE group.