Penguins rescued from New Zealand oil spill released | WWF

Penguins rescued from New Zealand oil spill released

Posted on
24 November 2011
The first little blue penguins affected by the Rena oil spill were released back into the wild at Mount Maunganui on Tuesday, after several weeks of recovery and care by WWF staff and other members of New Zealand’s National Oiled Wildlife Recovery Team.

The container ship Rena grounded on Astrolabe Reef in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty on October 5, 2011, spilling 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea. Over two thousand dead seabirds have been found and hundreds of live oiled birds have been collected to be treated in special wildlife recovery centres, including little blue penguins, shags, fluttering shearwaters, petrels, gannets and terns.

An army of volunteers has cleaned the beaches and rocks and the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery Team made the decision to release 49 of the little blue penguins in their care this week.

WWF-New Zealand Marine Advocate Bob Zuur said: "Releasing the birds is a trade-off between risk of being re-oiled and the not inconsiderable risks of keeping the birds longer - for example disease, birds reducing condition, ongoing stress, social disruption and domestication. We believe the team at the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery Team made the right choice in releasing the first of the little blue penguins now, taking these factors into account. There is also a possibility of a second clutch this breeding season."


What we're doing

As part of our response to the spill, WWF sent staff to Tauranga to assist with the rescue and clean up efforts, and to assess the environmental impacts. Along with other organisations, WWF marine staff joined the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery Team, coordinated by Maritime New Zealand, recovering oiled penguins at Mount Maunganui.

"After seeing so many animals killed by the oil spill, it is encouraging to see these healthy, cleaned birds released back to their home shores," said Zuur.

WWF remains deeply concerned for wildlife in the region, and believe it could take many years before the full impact of the Rena oil spill on birds and other wildlife is known.

In the coming weeks, WWF will engage with the authorities and with community-led conservation groups in the Bay of Plenty to identify and support their environmental rehabilitation and restoration needs.

A blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) rescued by WWF staff to be cleaned of contaminating oil and chemicals from the Rena oil spill.
© WWF / Bob Zuur