New bird rehabilitation centre is – for the first time – preventing oiled birds in Germany from being killed

Following a spill of an unknown quantity of waste fuel off the German coast – which is presumed to have been deliberate, in which over 1000 birds have become oiled, many of which have already died, a new rehabilitation centre is cleaning birds for the first time in Germany, preventing them from being shot or clubbed to death, as has happened in the past.

Until now, it has been believed by the German and Netherlands wildlife authorities that cleaning oiled birds is a waste of time. “They would literally hire hunters after spills who would go out and either wring necks or shoot the oiled birds on the beaches,” a spokesperson for the International Bird Rescue Research Centre (IBRRC), the organisation leading the latest rescue, told edie. However, last year the IBRRC has proved that well-organised rescue operations can save large numbers of birds when the saved around 40,000 African penguins from a oil spill off the South African coast (see related story).

The new Westkuestenpark Oiled Seabird Rehabilitation Centre at St Peter-Ording in Schleswig-Holstein in the northwest of Germany has had to be hastily completed in order to cope with the 200 surviving birds that have been affected by the spill, predominantly red-throated loons, common eiders and common scoters. The area includes many islands and salt marshes, and is an important migratory stop and breeding ground for seabirds. Unfortunately, it is also constantly under threat from pollution from spills and discharges from the many rivers flowing into it. Following a particularly bad spill in 1998, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) provided US$350,000 (€394,000) to the Westkustenpark wildlife sanctuary in order to build the new centre.

There has been a very positive reaction towards the new centre among local people, Andreas Dinkelmeyer of IFAW in Germany told edie. “The locals have been very supportive and are astonished by the professionality of IFAW and IBRRC in the operation,” he said.

IFAW’s aim is to prevent oil spills in the first place,” said Director of IFAW Germany Dr Markus Risch. “But we are not that far yet. In the meantime, we also have to care for the individual oiled bird. This centre is meant to advance research and encourage the application of state-of-the-art veterinary techniques to save the lives of as many oiled birds as possible and return them to their natural habitat.”

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