Besides the obvious thought of oil polluting water, oil spills affect all sorts of animals. Whether an animal lives in the water, on neighboring land, or flies in the air, many animal species experience devastating consequences by no fault of their own. In fact, many times an animal may enter the endangered species list as a result of an oil spill. This article approaches particular animals and discusses how an oil spill could affect them directly.
Whales or dolphins
While many animals are at risk of dying from ingesting oil, whales and dolphins bear an additional risk due to how they breathe. While difficulty breathing is part of the whale’s problem, the main reason for whales dying comes from their eating fish who have swum through or ingested oil. The oil is poisonous to the whale, hence giving them a death sentence. Often receiving more media attention than smaller creatures, seeing a dolphin die due to an oil clogged blowhole makes quite an image.
Birds such as seagulls
Birds that live close to the coast are at great risk of dying from nearby oil spills. When a bird dives into the oily water to catch a fish, oil clings to their feathers and fills their eyes. Since flying becomes difficult, it is the bird’s practice of cleaning that hurts it the most. By cleaning its feathers many birds wind up ingesting the poisonous oil. In addition, since flying becomes so difficult, many birds wind up starving to death from exhaustion and inability to find food. Even with lighter weight oils, birds can even die from hypothermia.
Creatures that inhabit oceans create the basis of a large marine food chain. When an oil spill wipes out the food source of plankton, larvae, and other small marine life, the rest of the food chain suffers tremendously. Destroying the small animals in the long term hurts the large animals.
Many turtles rely upon coastal sand to lay their eggs. When an oil spill contaminates these beaches, baby turtles may not hatch or may have a more difficult time reaching the sea. In addition, breathing oil fumes can damage turtles’ airways causing pneumonia, emphysema, and other deadly ailments.
As news about the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reaches households around the world, hopefully people will step up to help save these animals from a tragic death. If you have a thought or opinion about animals and the result oil spills have on their world, please comment below.
Source: Australian Maritime Safety Authority