The recent BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the cause of this raging debate among animal biologists if they should euthanize oil-soaked birds (the brown pelican, removed from the endangered species list last year) vis-à-vis capturing, cleaning and rehabilitating them. The verdict is tough, especially when it comes from animal experts who think the heroic efforts to capture, clean and scrub oil-tarred pelicans are traumatic and futile when the chances of survival of the birds are dim.
Experts believe it will take a minimum of 3 years to determine the damage and impact of this spill on wildlife. The bird deaths are certainly not due to the oil spill alone - a variety of factors like age, size and length of exposure to the spill need to be taken into account.
However, World Wildlife Fund experts are of the opinion that in the best interests of everyone and wildlife in particular, the birds should and can be saved depending on the degree of the spill, survival chances and conservation strategies. A blanket policy of euthanasia can be avoided depending on the situation.
Saving the birds seems the easiest and most conventional and concrete step. Even if the birds are saved and survive, they need to be rehabilitated which means going back to the same habitat – the oil spill venue? Keeping them in captivity and away from their natural habitat is also not a solution. Most birds get acclimatized and generally, don’t do well in a new forced habitat – artificial, foreign or the zoo. So, to stop the vicious circle from ever expanding, there has to be kinder way of ending the agony.
The ongoing process of cleaning the oiled birds notwithstanding, priority should be given to save the next generation of our feathered friends, which means protecting the virgin nesting areas in Texas and Florida. The rescue work is commendable and has gotten better but it looks like a tough job to stop them from flying back to their nests