By now, everyone knows about the Gulf oil spill that occurred in April of 2010 and everyone is worried about the impact that this spill will have on the economy and the environment. While those are obviously very important issues, I find that few people are really concerned about the impact that this spill will have on wildlife now and in the future.
Imagine you decide to take a bath and then out of no where someone drop a barrel of motor oil into you bath. Already an unpleasant visual, right? Now imagine that you had to stay in that bath tub for days, weeks, years. When you it was time to eat someone threw your food in the water, when you tried to get a drink you had to hope that what you where about to swallow was clean. What a terrible way to live. This is what all of the oil spills and most recently the Gulf oil spill has done to the wildlife in the surrounding oil.
Sea turtles have long been an endangered animal due to several other factors, now they have the large Gulf oil spill to worry about. Since sea turtle nesting season starts on May 1st, sea turtles are likely to be one of the animals that are hardest hit by this large oil spill. Sea turtles, like several other animals such as dolphins, manatees, and whales, breathe at the surface of the water rather than beneath it. When a sea turtle has to come up for air in an area that has suffered from an oil spill, its face gets covered in oil and then it inhales the toxic fumes that are coming off of that oil. There is nothing that these sea turtles can do about the oil covering their bodies or the toxic air that they are breathing in, so they suffer and some, sadly, die.
To some it may be surprising that birds are also victims of the Gulf oil spill. The most obvious way the Gulf oil spill affects birds is by negatively impacting their food supply. If the food is gone, the birds can not eat it. When the birds dive into the water to catch the fish not only are they getting a mouth full of fish, but a mouth full of oil. Like humans can’t consume gasoline, birds or any wildlife for that matter, can’t consume oil. It is toxic. As the birds dive into the water to catch their meal, they are also becoming coated in the oil that is sitting on top of the water. Birds frequently water proof their own feather, this helps keep them dry and warm after touching water. Once oil gets on their feathers the waterproofing loses its effect. Birds can develop hypothermia, just like people, and die. If the birds don’t develop hypothermia, the next obstacle, is that over time the oil gets sticky, which makes their wings stick, weighs the bird down, and makes it difficult for them to fly. All this energy used to try and fly can dehydrate and starve the birds.
Unfortunately, many animals will most likely be affected by the Gulf oil spill. Seals and their pups, dolphins, whales, and manatees can all be affected by this oil spill in many of the same ways that the sea turtles and birds are being affected. The old saying treat people the way you would want to be treated also needs to start including the environment and the animals. I understand that the demand for oil is high. If I had to consider drilling into the ocean for oil knowing that if I made a mistake my family could die because our house would be covered in oil, I wouldn’t go forward with it. I also understand that people don’t value the environment or animal life as much as a persons or their families, but they should. The world is a delicate balance and without the pristine Earth we’ve been given and the wonderful animals that roam, we wouldn’t be here either.
There are lots of ways to help the animals during this Gulf oil spill. If you are interested in helping here is some information on some organizations that are making animals their focus.
-To report injured wildlife or oiled animals call 1-866-557-1401
-Matter of trust is collecting hair and pantyhose, to help soak up the oil in the Gulf http://matteroftrust.org/
-Tri State Bird Rescue and Research is looking for volunteers as it is getting ready to rehabilitate animals www.tristatebird.org or (302) 737-9543
-Mobile Baykeeper says the best way to help now – before the oil hits the shoreline – is by picking up litter and debris. They will also be accepting volunteers to help with the cleaning of the coast www.mobilebaykeeper.org or (251) 433-4229
-The Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida is looking for donation as they expect birds and other animal affected by the oil spill. www.pensecolawildlife.com