Shedd May Help Oil Spill Animals - NBC Chicago

Shedd May Help Oil Spill Animals

Hope to rescue birds, sea turtles from the oily waters



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    A pelican stands in the oil-slicked waters of Grand Isle, Louisiana.

    Chicago may be hundreds of miles from the Gulf oil spill, but members of the Shedd Aquarium are ready to lend a hand.

    The Shedd, which has experience working with animals affected by oil disasters, has registered with multiple federal agencies in case the number of oil-covered animals coming ashore becomes too much for workers in Louisiana to handle.

    The aquarium's Executive Vice President of animal programs and training Ken Ramirez will likely be one of them.

    “The reason we’re pledging to go is we have a lot of expertise in animal care,” Ramirez, who used to oversee spill clean up in Texas, said. “When hundreds of otters and pelicans start washing up on shore, the on-site teams, skilled as they are, don’t have the capacity to help. That’s where we come in.”

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    As of Tuesday, June 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 478 dead birds, 224 dead sea turtles and 25 dead marine mammals. 

    “If the oil gets to the beaches, where it does damage to pelicans and sea turtles, then you have endangered species being affected,” Ramirez said. “When you start impacting animals whose numbers are already threatened, then it becomes a crisis.”

    Ramirez’s team is expert in the treatment of sea turtles and pelicans, and may send specialists to the site in two-week stints. Ramirez says the Shedd has the space to house a small number of animals, most likely turtles, and provide long term care.

    Experts have reasoned that the oil will work its way into the underwater food chain and affect marine life for decades to come.

    BP’s efforts to contain the oil spill have so far proven fruitless, but they succeeded in cutting a ruptured oil pipe early Thursday and hope to funnel oil and gas to the water’s surface later in the day.

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