Santa Barbara oil spill takes toll on wildlife

Rescued animals treated in wildlife care facility in Los Angeles but fears continue that oil spill could inflict more damage

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The oil spill in Santa Barbara continues to damage the wildlife in California’s coast. More than two dozen dead and living marine mammals and nearly 40 birds have been collected from the oil-fouled coastline this week, wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

The pipeline ruptured along the scenic California coastline on 19 May, spilling an initial estimate of  21,000 gallons (79,000 liters) of oil into the ocean and on beaches before it could be secured.

Authorities increased that to a significantly higher 105,000 gallons (397,000 litres) of leaked oil two days after the spill as federal investigators started to look for the reason behind it.

Thirty-eight oil-coated birds have been recovered from the area, 18 of which turned up dead and 25 of which were picked up alive. Wildlife teams have been working to rescue sea birds, marine mammals and other animals injured by the spill, said Dr. Michael Ziccardi, a veterinarian from the University of California, who heads the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

He said the rescued birds were taken to a wildlife care facility in Los Angeles to be cleaned up, treated and released to the wild.

Among the marine mammals counted as apparent oil spill victims, 12 California sea lions and six northern elephant seals were recovered alive, but two of the captured sea lions later died.

Five other sea lions were found dead, along with the carcasses of three common dolphins, Ziccardi said.

The full extent of damage to wildlife is not yet fully known but experts say that it could take months to fully clean up the coast and assess the damage caused by the rupture.

TRTWorld and agencies