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Louisiana State Animal Response Team
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 2010
On April 20th, 2010, the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon had an explosion that killed 11 workers, and 36 hours later on April 22nd the rig sank. Two safety measure at the time of the explosion were activated but failed to plug the well. The well was finally able to be capped on July 15th after spilling 4.9 millions barrels of crude oil, and sealed to declare it dead on September 19th. This resulted in the largest spill in petroleum oil history.
The International Bird Rescue and Research Center, and Tri-Sate Bird Rescue and Research were two specialized teams brought in to help with the oiled wildlife care and rehabilitation. LSART worked as a partner with these teams. Several pick-up locations were established that would transport the birds to the main facility in Buras, LA where birds were medically evaluated, cleaned, and cared for until there were ready for release. Towards the end of the spill, the main center would be moved to Hammond, LA until the project was completed.
From May-August, LSART provided 213 works that provided a total of 22,288.44 hours of labor. Between Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, more than 8,000 birds(dead and alive) were collected with 1,246 were released back into the wild. An HBO documentary called Saving Pelican 895 was made that follows one birds journey.
Below is a short account from one of our field administrators
"The Louisiana heat beat down on everyone and the unpleasant smell of pelican waste and the fish slurries they eat filled the air but you became nose blind to it after a while. There were a lot of dedicated people who worked very long hours care for the birds. I especially appreciate all the people from Tri-State and the International Bird rescue who traveled so far from home to help.
Once an oiled bird was captured, it received basic life support and was transported to the rehabilitation facility in large dog kennels. Once there, we allowed them to rest and de-stress from their ride. After settling, the bird was taken to the medical station where a medical chart is started by a veterinarian. The bird was weighed, feathers with oil samples collected, photographed, and temperature and blood samples were taken. Birds received additional care as needed.
After check-up, they were given fluids, eyes flushed, and taken to the appropriate holding pen. The pens were plywood structures with netting over the tops. The birds de-stressed in the pens and it is very important to remember that these were wild animals that see us as predators and their current captors. They do not understand that you are trying to help it and workers were asked to minimize looking into the pens to avoid stressing them more.
Once the bird was rested and a veterinarian had declared it stable, it could begin the washing procedure. First the bird is "marinated" in a substance to help break up the oil and allowed to sit for an hour. It was then washed with its own bottle of blue Dawn dish detergent and moved though bins of water until it was clean and ready for a final rinse. The wash process took an average of 45 minutes and for the scared bird, is was worst 45 minutes of its life.
After rinsing, the bird went into a drying room with heat where it was monitored and given fluids as needed. Once dry, it went into a non-oiled pen for 24hrs of monitoring before being brought to an outside pen with a pool and perches. Birds in the outside pens relaxed, preened, and regrew feathers. The washing also striped the birds natural oils that make it waterproof so birds had to stay until its feathers were waterproof again from their natural body oils. Birds were checked by spraying water over them, and once it beads, they were ready for release back into the wild. They were are all banded for records and taken out of state for the release.
The hours were long, but the work was satisfying. It's was human mess, thus it was our responsibility to fix it."