Rare Penguins Covered By Oil After Ship Runs Aground
Tiny Northern Rockhopper penguins, found only on a remote island-chain in near Antarctica, were soaked in oil after an off-course ship ran aground and split in two. Only 19,500 Rockhopper breeding pairs were found on Nightingale Island (where the ship sank) in a 2005 census.
Rockhoppers were put on the international “endangered” list in 2008 after scientists noted an alarming a decline in population.
According to the IUCN Red List, the official body that determines the status of species, “Precise reasons for the declines are poorly known, but changes in sea temperature, competition and incidental capture in fisheries and introduced predators are all likely to be implicated.”
Dr. David Guggenheim (a.k.a., The Ocean Doctor) is a senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation. He was part of an expedition traveling between the tip of South America and the tip of South Africa, when he received word that the Greek Freighter, MS Oliva, was off-course and had run aground in the Tristan da Cunha Islands . The research vessel the Prince Albert II headed to the crippled vessel, where they rescued 11 crew-members and the ship’s captain under high swells and winds blowing up to 40-knots.
Guggenheim blogged about the incident, saying:
A large oil slick from the ruptured fuel tanks of the Oliva covered the northwestern portion of [Nightingale Island] yesterday afternoon. The ship is carrying more than 300,000 gallons of heavy marine oil and 15,000 gallons of diesel oil. We received word this morning that the MV Oliva broke in half overnight and that oil is now engulfing Nightingale Island and officials are gravely concerned about wildlife impacts.
Last Friday, Guggenheim reported that the oil slick had completely surrounded the island. Worse, half of the pengu
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