Dish Soap and Diplomacy is the Key During Peru Spill Response

Bird Rescue Teams joined Aiuká, and other response members from Peru at the wildlife response near Lima. Photo: Aiuká
Teaming up: Rodolfo Sylva of Auika and Julie Skoglund of International Bird Rescue.

It’s been nearly three months since a 500,000 gallon oil spill coated beaches and wildlife along the coast of Peru. In those months International Bird Rescue has done what it knows best: Providing seasoned personnel with years of experience to South America to assist with the rescue and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife.

After the January 15th spill, Bird Rescue quickly sent Response Team members Julie Skoglund and Mark Russell, where they worked with trusted South American partner, Aiuká. They were joined later by team members Kelly Beffa, Devin Bergeles, Lisbeth Montenegro, Mackenzie Preble, and Susan Kaveggia.

Our team did not need to be reminded that effective international oiled wildlife response calls for both dish soap and diplomacy.

“In an international spill, we can’t just swoop in as if we have all the answers,” said Julie Skoglund, who is Bird Rescue’s Director of Operations. “It’s important that we spend time listening, building trust, and building relationships.” In order to effectively meet the needs of wildlife, it is also vitally important to meet the needs of the local community.

“In an international spill, we can’t just swoop in as if we have all the answers. It’s important that we spend time listening, building trust, and building relationships.” – Julie Skoglund, International Bird Rescue’s Director of Operations

As Bird Rescue seeks to share what we have learned through the decades, one of our primary goals is to build the capacity of local responders and leave them better equipped to deal with future challenges. To this end, Julie spent time training others and sharing our protocols, including caging recommendations, husbandry guidelines, and tube-feeding methods with animal caretakers.

Mark Russell, Bird Rescue Response Team Member, captures an oiled bird during search and collection efforts in Peru. Photo: Aiuká

“Techniques that work with other species need adjustments when applied to seabirds. Julie said. “I was able to share a few adjustments that will dramatically improve outcomes for birds in care.”

Reflecting on his experience Mark Russell noted, “The language differences were challenging yet surmountable. Both Julie and I had just enough Spanish to get by and learned more very quickly. I think our contribution was more than just what we were doing in the field… It’s an emotional boost for the people who have been struggling to find a path through the chaos to have us come in and listen to all the issues and lend our support to solve some of the problems.”

While in Peru, our team described an incredibly stark, dramatic landscape with giant beaches and inaccessible rocky shorelines. The work of recovering birds in this environment was challenging and stressful. In the midst of the challenges, a murmuration of Black Skimmers flying overhead provided a brilliant motivator for the work we do. Many of the birds impacted by this spill were migratory birds at the southern end of their migration, and by now will have begun their spring migration northward. Birds transcend borders. When we respond to birds in need, we must continue to transcend borders as well.

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.


On January 15, 2022, heavy crude oil was spilled in Ventanilla, Peru, when unusually large waves caused by the volcanic eruption in Tonga disrupted a ship that was unloading at a refinery. The resulting spill stained more than 31 miles of beaches, as well as the nearby guano islands.

Bird species affected included the vulnerable Humboldt Penguin, Guanay Cormorant, Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Penguin, Peruvian Booby, and the Peruvian Pelican.

Recent release included 29 Peruvian Boobies, 4 Franklin Gulls, 4 Peruvian Gulls, and 2 Neotropical Cormorants. These 39 clean and healthy birds recentlywere released on the beach south of Lima, Peru. Photo: Aiuká