Bird Rescue Response Team Deployed to Assist in Peru Oil Spill

An oiled Peruvian Booby is among the birds being treated at a Lima zoo. Photo: Parque de las Leyenzas Zoo/AFP

An experienced team of wildlife professionals from International Bird Rescue is responding to an oil spill in Peru. These senior responders will support our partner organization, Brazil-based Aiuká, with their efforts to oversee the care of oiled impacted wildlife at the coastal oil spill about an hour north of Lima, Peru.

On January 15, 2022, at least 500,000 gallons (11,900 barrels) of heavy crude oil were spilled in Ventanilla, Peru, at Repsol‘s La Pampilla refinery, when unusually large waves from the undersea volcanic eruption in Tonga 6,200 miles (10,000 km) away, disrupted a ship that was unloading. The coastal area of Ventanilla is about an hour’s drive from Lima. Read: BBC Story

To date, the spill has stained more than 31 miles (50 km) of beaches, as well as the nearby uninhabited guano islands. At least 80 oiled animals have been rescued. The bird species in the area include the vulnerable Humboldt Penguin, Guanay Cormorant, Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Penguin, Peruvian Booby, and the Peruvian Pelican. Marine Otters are also in danger of contamination.

Birds fly over workers as they survey oil spill at Cavero Beach in Peru on January 21, 2022. Photo: Martin Mejia / AP

Luckily, the Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) colonies in Peru molt in January. During the four-week annual molting period – in which the birds lose all the feathers on their body and grow in new ones – penguins remain on land. So far, there haven’t been significant numbers of these birds involved in the spill.

Aiuká has been contacted by Repsol and currently has an expert oiled wildlife team on the ground to manage the wildlife impacted by this event.

Impacted wildlife is being cared for at the Parque de las Leyendas Zoo in Lima with support from Proyecto Golondrina de la Tempestad de Collar under the management of Aiuká’s experienced oiled wildlife response team.

Aiuká founders have been part of Bird Rescue’s international response team, working with us in Spain, Norway, South Africa, Galapagos Islandsand we’ve helped augment their team in South America on a number of spill responses.  In addition, Bird Rescue has a long history of working with international response partners to provide the best outcome for oiled wildlife. Both Bird Rescue and Aiuka are among the founding members of the Global Oiled Wildlife Response Service (GOWRS), bringing together 10 of the world’s leading oiled wildlife preparedness and response organizations to develop key readiness guidance documents for ensuring professional, effective preparedness and response.

Since 1971 it has responded to over 230 oil spill events including the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, the 2000 Treasure Oil Spill in South Africa where 20,000 oiled penguins were saved, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig blow out in the Gulf of Mexico.