West Cape News (Cape Town)

17 September 2012

South Africa: Penguins Affected By Oil Spill From Seli 1

While authorities in Cape Town intensified their efforts to clean up a major oil slick from the doomed Turkish bulk carrier the Seli 1, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) was set to rehabilitate at least 15 penguins affected by the pollution.

Rough seas and high swells over the weekend caused further damage to the already broken vessel, causing the release of oil which covered the entire Blouberg Coastal line, said City Disaster Management spokesperson Wilfred Solomons-Johannes.

At least 15 penguins had been badly affected by the oil that started leaking from the stricken vessel on Friday 31 Aug and on Monday morning SANCCOB was rehabilitating one of the affected penguins in their Intensive Care Unit (ICU) whilst waiting for the City to deliver the remaining 14 affected birds.

SANCCOB rehabilitation manager Nicky Stander said the penguin was brought to their care on Saturday and they were waiting for the other 14 to be delivered by the City.

Stander said the penguins were extremely traumatised by the experience and would have to be stabilised before being washed as the process was 'extremely' stressful to them.

"We have to make sure that they (the penguins) are strong," said Stander.

She said once they were washed they were taken to an outside pen until they regained their natural waterproofing on their feathers.

The penguins would only be released to the sea after their weight, blood results and plumage were healthy, she said.

The situation was not a crisis as yet but it was imperative that the Seli 1 be removed. The vessel first ran aground in 2009 and attempts to salvage it were unsuccessful.

"Year after year we are experiencing the same problem. The oil is affecting the penguins and other sea birds," she said.

Solomons said on Monday morning at 7am the City's disaster response commenced with the cleanup operation of the coastline following the oil spill that occurred on Friday night.

He said the third aerial surveillance conducted by the marine patrol aircraft of the Department of Environmental Affairs revealed that much of the oil spotted over the weekend had been cleared up.

There was also no oil spotted between the SELI 1 wreckage and Robben Island, however, he said black streaks were visible from the centre of the vessel for 400 metres moving to the north, becoming sheen to the rocks off Bloubergstrand

"Since yesterday fifteen oiled penguins have been captured and been transported from the bird colony on Robben Island to SANCCOB for treatment and rehabilitation," said Solomons adding that the situation endangered the marine life and the environment and was a concern to the City.

The City had requested R40m from the National Treasury to be used to entirely remove the wreckage from Table View beachfront.

Questions sent to the City to establish how much money it has spent in cleaning up oil spills from the Seli 1 since 2009 had not been responded to before going to press.

Stander appealed to any one who might spot any oiled penguins to call SANCCOB on 021 557 6155.

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