First Penguins Released After New Zealand Oil Spill

49 Little Blue Penguins oiled in the spill from the grounded cargo ship Rena were released today in New Zealand, after rescue and rehabilitation by emergency response teams, including International Bird Rescue, organized through Massey University’s New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre.

In preparation for the release we set up three aviaries with a salt water system and gradually raised the salinity to that of seawater. We sorted the penguins into “tribes” according to their location of capture, their state of waterproofing and their estimated time until molt. We are relieved to be getting most of them out before molt. Ecologist and Dotterel expert John Dowding also performed a final evaluation of habitat to start releasing some of the Dotterels who were captured to the south. Hopefully by the time Dr Brett Gartrell, the Wildlife Centre Manager, returns in a week, we will be down to 225-250 birds in care.

Christmas is already in the air down here. Since New Zealanders don’t celebrate Thanksgiving there is nothing to stop Christmas creep. There is already talk of our Facilities Manager Bill Dwyer’s annual staff Christmas party and we are even seeing a number of posters for New Year’s events.

It’s a bit hard to get into the Christmas spirit for those of us not used to worrying about sunburn in November, but it is starting to look like we may make it home with some time left to do our Christmas shopping.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Curt Clumpner
Preparedness Director
International Bird Rescue