Sandra Birnhak wrote -
Nightingale Island Disaster Penguin and Seabird Rescue
The Tristan de Cunha island group represents the second largest concentration of sea birds in the world. Half of the world’s endangered Northern Rockhopper penguin population is found here. Nightingale Island holds more than 100,000 pairs of Northern Rockhopper penguins, 20,000 pairs of albatrosses including the yellow nose albatross, and 2,000,000 pairs of Broadbill prions. The island is also home to the highly-endangered Tristan Bunting. Only 50 pairs remain in the world, all of which are found on Nightingale Island.
On March 17, 2011 a 75,300 tonne bulk carrier, called the ‘MS Oliva’, ran aground just off the shores of UK-governed Nightingale Island. After the ship broke in half, at least 800 tonnes of crude oil leaked into the ocean water and experts on the scene now estimate some 20,000 endangered penguins have been covered in oil as a result. Adding to biologists’ and conservationists’ concerns, rats from the vessel may be making their way to the island, which could be catastrophic for these imperiled birds. Worse yet, much-needed hands, supplies, and food for rescued birds has yet to be sent to the island.
Located roughly 2,816 kilometers (1,750 miles) west of South Africa, Nightingale Island and its surrounding islands are home to the largest population of Northern Rockhopper Penguins, which are listed as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Northern Rockhoppers on this island chain have declined by as much as 98% over the last 45 years, in some areas. The islands of the Tristan da Cunha Archipelago—the area where the MS Olivia wrecked—holds over 70% of the global population of this species. Nightingale Island holds one of the biggest sub populations in this area. Birds at nearby World Heritage Sites, Inaccessible and Gough Islands, may also be at risk.
Hundreds of oiled Northern Rockhoppers have been rescued already, and it seems most are being cared for at the main island of Tristan da Cunha. National Geographic reporter, Andrew Evans, says he witnessed 750 oiled penguins being sent to the main island from Nightingale Island yesterday. Conservation initiative, the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), reports 473 were taken from there to the main island this morning. Evans claims thousands of these endangered birds are expected to die as a result of the oil spill.