Sunday, January 8, 2012

Knitting 'jumpers' for oiled penguins

Shipping through Bass Strait (a turbulant stretch of water between mainland Australia and Tasmania) and Western Port Bay is busy, consequently there is always the possibility of an oil spill that could harm seabirds -- little penguins in particular.

Recently, the Phillip Island Nature Park constructed a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and Hospital. Facilities for oil affected birds include a washing room, indoor cages, and 2 inground saltwater pools to rehabilitate the birds. The facility can accommodate up to 1500 penguins, in the event of a major oil spill.

On average, 140 sick and injured little penguins are cared for by the Phillip Island Nature Park each year.

In 2001, 488 oil-affected penguins were treated with a 95 per cent success rate. The procedure begins by placing a penguin 'jumper' on each of the oiled birds to prevent them ingesting any more oil. People from all over the world knit penguin 'jumpers' for little penguins with feathers damaged by oil. In one of the photos you can see a collection of these special 'jumpers'. Another photo shows the shop attached to the centre.

The second step is to wash each bird, using a mild detergent. The birds are force fed fish and supplements, and swum daily. When their body weight returns to normal and their natural oils are replenished, they're released back into the wild.

The Phillip Island Nature Park controls over 20 per cent of the island and has an emphasis on research, conservation and education.

When we lived on King Island, we helped band penguins and record penguin statistics with Peter Dann, the Research Manager for the Phillip Island Nature Park. Peter's passion and dedication to the welfare of penguins is an inspiration.

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