"Kill, don't clean," recommends Silvia Gaus, a biologist at NationalPark Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea National Park) in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Unfortunately, despite some short-term success in cleaning birds and releasing them into the wild, few, if any, have a chance of surviving even for a few months, reports Ms Gaus, who has worked as a biologist for 20 years.
"According to serious studies, the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent," Ms Gaus explained. "We, therefore, oppose cleaning birds."
Blogger and evolutionary biologist GrrlScientist took a closer look at those serious studies and found the survival rate of oiled birds depends on a number of factors, and can be as high as 100% among some populations. She advocates making the effort to clean and release birds.
I disagree with Ms Gaus's gloomy policy. Because all people use oil or oil-related products in some form, I maintain that it is both ethical and responsible to try to save as many oiled birds and other wildlife as we can. Some wildlife management professionals argue that cleaning oiled birds isn't worth the monetary cost and effort since little or no impact can be made on a species level. But actually, we don't know this to be true. Additionally, I ask you; what amount of money and effort is too much, and who should be making those decisions anyway? Further, what do we, as scientists and as a society, gain by trying to save these unfortunate animals? Certainly, I think it is imperative to develop our technology to the best level possible so we can use it to help all birds, whether their populations are doing fine or they are threatened or endangered, so we are capable of helping them in the sad event that they are impacted by an oil spill. This requires that we continually refine and improve our techniques and equipment to do the job properly.
There is much more information on previous spills and bird survival rates at Living the Scientific Life. What do you think? Should we leave oiled birds to their fate, euthanize them, or wash and rehabilitate them one by one? Link
(Image credit: Paul Buck/EPA)