New OWCN-IBR Collaboration Seems Like Old Times

Last month I traveled with Barbara Callahan from OWCN Member Organization International Bird Rescue (IBR) to Baku, Azerbaijan. What made this training especially significant was that this was the first international training project that OWCN and IBR collaborated on as partners from start to finish. Our mission was to help increase the level of preparedness for oiled wildlife response in that country. We were there on behalf of BP, the managing partner of the BTC Pipeline Company. The pipeline runs from south of Baku on the Caspian Sea to the Lesser Caucasus Mountains through Georgia and then to the Ceyhan Terminal in Turkey on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.



BTC Pipeline (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan)

City of contrasts (1)

City of contrasts: the old and the new

It was not the first time I had been to this corner of the world, and over the years I have come to appreciate this city of contrasts and of seemingly constant change. Simply looking at the skyline provides evidence of the immense influence of oil on this city and country.

While the OWCN continues to expand within California and along with our Member Organizations, we work to increase our readiness and improve our capacity for spills, we are also seeking opportunities to leverage our knowledge and experience to help other areas of the world as well. Through collaborations as represented with this training, as well as other projects we are involved with, such as the Global Oiled Wildlife Response System, we are working to share our knowledge as well as bring back the experiences of those we meet around the world.

The training in Baku included more than 100 participants from a diversity of NGOs, government agencies and industry (a few if them include the Institute of Geology, the Baku Zoo, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Baku Veterinary Department, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the Azerbaijan Society for the Protection of Animals, the Institute of Zoology, BP, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and many more).  These various groups came together during the training to learn basic concepts of oiled wildlife response and to develop basic plans for setting up a wildlife facility.  The diversity of backgrounds and participant age enriched the discussion with a variety of perspectives, opinions and questions, increasing the learning and enjoyment for us all.

Facility plan team

Developing a facility plan

Facility exercise AZ training

Presenting the plan to the class

The third day was a hands-on field exercise on a windy Caspian Sea beach outside of the city where nearly 50 participants practiced in the capture of birds and mammals, provided first responder aid to captured wildlife, and made decisions on transport to wildlife facilities.

Caspian seal capture AZ exercise

Exercise: Capturing a seal

This training provided everyone, myself included, with a better understanding of what an oiled wildlife response in Azerbaijan would be like. All in all, a very worthwhile endeavor. I hope the OWCN will have more opportunities to collaborate with International Bird Rescue and other organizations to share our collective experiences.  It is only in collaborating and sharing experiences that we can move forward along the never-ending road to best achievable care.


OWCN International!

I hope everyone is having a great, relatively oil-free summer. The OWCN Management Team here at Davis is trying to stay cool in the lovely Central Valley heat while staying busy on readiness and response activities (including the Grove Incident in Ventura, which we look forward to giving everyone a detailed accounting of as soon as it is over – for now, you can catch some of the details on OSPR’s Cal Spill Watch website as well as Ventura County Star coverage).

One thing that has been personally keeping me particularly busy in 2016 so far is trying to figure out the best way to share the skills, knowledge, and experience that the Wildlife Health Center here at UC Davis has gained by managing the OWCN for OSPR over the past 20+ years with other regions outside of California. We are extremely proud of our Network and its fabulous partners throughout the state, and feel it is critical to be able to share the readiness accomplishments more broadly to help other regions of the world while maintaining the excellent readiness and capabilities we have in California.

While there are a number of different projects and partnerships that we are exploring, I wanted to share information on three of those that are currently actively being worked on:


  • Global Oiled Wildlife Response System (GOWRS): This project (discussed by me in an earlier blog) is aimed at developing the foundations for a response system that can be accessed by the oil industry and other stakeholders in the event of an oil spill incident requiring international wildlife response resources (Tier 3 response). The system would enhance the response capability of existing wildlife response organizations through a common operating procedure and shared standards that would allow for unity of effort in the event of an incident requiring the support of multiple organizational resources. The project is currently made up of representatives from: Aiuká (Brazil); Focus Wildlife International (USA & Canada); International Bird Rescue (USA);  Oiled Wildlife Care Network, Wildlife Health Center, UC Davis (USA); PRO Bird (Germany); RSPCA (UK); SANCCOB (South Africa); Sea Alarm Foundation (Belgium);  Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research Inc (USA); Wildbase, Massey University (New Zealand); and Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend (Belgium). Specifically, the JIP20 project partners have now delivered draft versions of the Standard Operating Procedures and the Animal Standards for response, and are actively working on a governance system to enable streamlined and efficient decision-making and deployment to occur. We have had two in-person meetings to date on this effort, with a third scheduled for early August in Delaware. For more info on the overall OSR-JIP project, please go here.


  • Oiled Wildlife Response Training (OWRT): This project, developed in close partnership with Wildbase, Massey University (NZ), is designed to create a cutting edge training program that utilizes modern and interactive technologies, coupled with scenario-based in-person instruction, to deliver comprehensive training information. The OWRT has multiple training paths that may be modified to meet specific organizational needs, producing high quality responders ranging from entry level personnel to managers of large-scale oiled wildlife responses. Currently, Massey/UC Davis is readying the roll-out of the first online module (Foundations for Oiled Wildlife Response), with additional modules to come online in the coming months to years. Ancillary benefits to the OWCN program in Californa in collaborating in this manner have been the exposure to more interactive, hands-on online offerings that have shown us better ways of conveying information through the OWCN’s Webinars. So stay tuned for revised Cores! For more info on the OWRT, please go here.


  • International Exercises: In partnership with Sea Alarm Foundation (Belgium), UC Davis staff have been exploring providing in-person directed training opportunities to specific industry clients in key management positions, as well as providing staffing and coaching during broad-based industry exercises that involve wildlife. In June, Hugo Nijkamp and I attended such an event in Malta to provide expertise in these ways, helping to guide personnel on-site in the development of initial wildlife plans, determine the best means to respond with limited resources, and help work through some challenging scenarios. We also took the opportunity to test some of the initial phases of the GOWRS system, seeing how easily it may have been to mount a Tier 3 response based on the information within the exercise.

While there are a number of other exciting and interesting opportunities that we are pursuing, I am currently pushing my self-imposed 800-word limit on blog length (and for those who followed me during Deepwater Horizon, you are probably thanking me!). Suffice it to say, the OWCN has become a world-recognized program on effective oiled wildlife preparedness and response due to the diligence and dedication of all of our staff, volunteers, and Member Organizations that make up OUR Network. We hope that, through an expanded outreach effort to other regions, similar care to animals in crisis can be afforded during international incidents.


Deja Vous all over again? Non merci


It was with great relief when I read on Monday that the cargo ship Modern Express was back under tow and headed away from land and imminent danger. The 538-foot car carrier with 300 tonnes of fuel and listing at 45 degrees as it drifted ever closer to the southern coast of France last weekend after it’s crew had been evacuated.iu

I learned of the Modern Express’s plight last week shortly after I read about Spain’s Supreme Court sentencing of the captain of the oil tanker Prestige to two years in prison for “recklessness” that resulting in catastrophic environmental damage” and the new threat could not help but bring back memories of my experience capturing and caring for oiled birds in Spain and later France in the days and weeks and following the disaster.

In November 2002, I was on the staff of International Bird Rescue (then IBRRC) and part of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Oiled Wildlife Team that worked under representatives of Xunta de Galicia managing the oiled bird center on a hill overlooking the city of Pontevedre. The wildlife response at that center, as well as other centers to the north as far as France and south into Portugal was truly an international effort. It included wildlife responders from organizations around Europe and around the world. Unsurprisingly one of those was my now boss, Dr. Mike Ziccardi, the Director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. At the time I was amazed at the rugged beauty of the coast of Galicia and the fishing villages all along it and at the devastation that the spill caused to animals and people.


Prestige oil spill 2002 –

This week I could too easily imagine it all over again if the Modern Express hit the rocks and wondered how a wildlife response would place out if that nightmare should occur.

Regular readers of our blog will remember Mike’s December post about the international group the OWCN is part of which is currently working to develop a system the Global Oiled Wildlife Response System (GOWRS) to ensure capacity to rapidly respond to oiled wildlife anywhere in the world. There is still considerable work to be done to accomplish that goal but just the fact that those groups are working on a plan means that if once again the “unthinkable” happens and another Prestige or Erika or Treasure or Deepwater Horizon occurs, we can respond at least a little bit quicker or a little bit better. As you all know when it comes to oiled wildlife, especially in early February in the northern Atlantic, every minute and every trained person counts. Hopefully by the time the next big spill occurs, a global oiled wildlife system, whatever it looks like, will be operational and ready to roll. I am sure if Mike and OWCN have anything to say about it, it will.

  • Curt

International Efforts Paying Off!

I apologize in advance for a lengthy blog post, but it has been awhile since I have written last, and I have some great and exciting news to share on international efforts that the OWCN has been helping to move forward!

Over the past decade or so, as you might or might not know, the OWCN has been collaborating with most of the other larger wildlife response organizations in the world to develop a framework for a shared/mutually supportive international oiled wildlife readiness program. This effort has finally borne fruit this Fall, with the funding (by industry) of what is being called the Global Oiled Wildlife Response System (or GOWRS), and I am happy to share the basis of this program with our local OWCN partners!

JIP copyAfter the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo spill of 2010, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) identified 19 areas that they felt required industry efforts to improve overall readiness and response (these recommendations can be found here). Initially, wildlife response was seen as a need, but could not be included in the initial efforts undertaken by a Joint Industry Project (or JIP) due to funding. Fortunately, a second round of funding was able to be found, and the GOWRS was officially launched as JIP20 in April of 2015.

The GOWRS is designed to be a two-year project which aims to involve leading oiled wildlife response organizations in a collaborative effort to:

  • Address the gap between oil spill response preparedness and wildlife response preparedness on a global scale and;
  • Develop the infrastructure for a future Tier 3 (or global) system for wildlife response, including:
    • Commonly agreed animal care principles for oiled wildlife response;
    • A standard operating procedure (SOP) for the collective mobilization of oiled wildlife response organizations;
    • A roadmap for the development of readiness systems (trainings, equipment and exercises) for the oil industry to ensure operational readiness for a Tier 3 wildlife response system; and
    • A governance structure that defines how the system is developed, operated, maintained and governed.

GOWRS_PeopleThe organizations that are helping move this project forward include: Aiuká (Brazil), Focus Wildlife (U.S.), International Bird Rescue (U.S.), UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) (U.S.), PRO Bird (Germany), Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) (UK), SANCCOB (South Africa), Sea Alarm Foundation (Belgium), Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc. (U.S.), Wildbase, Massey University (New Zealand), and Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend (Belgium).

Currently, all of the partners are working hard (via Skype and e-mail methods) to generate the documents and procedures necessary to allow such an ambitious and far-reaching program to operate. As we move these methods forward, I hope to keep our OWCN Member Organizations better informed about our progress in this exciting effort!

There are other exciting National and International efforts that the UC Davis/OWCN staff are embarking upon to better help animals in need, but I will hold those for another blog, so stay tuned!