Oil slick from shipwreck could spell disaster to penguins

A heartbreaking environmental disaster is unfolding on and around Nightingale Island, home to more than 200,000 northern rockhopper penguins – creatures made famous by the animated feature film “Happy Feet”.

The grounding and breaking apart of the MS Olivia in UK overseas territory of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean poses a serious threat to what are thought to be nearly half of the world’s population of this species of rare penguins. This area of the Southern Atlantic is home to millions of nesting seabirds. 

An oil slick from the 1,500 tonnes of oil the Olivia was carrying has already surrounded the island and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says that the slick extends eight miles offshore.

The MS Oliva breaking apart and spilling oil at Nightingale Island (Photo: D. Guggenheim)

Birds are already coming onshore covered with oil and there’s concern that this disaster could wipe out the penguin population entirely.

A secondary threat to the island’s bird residents and their nesting grounds is the concern for rats escaping the wrecked ship to the island.  This could, said RSPB research biologist Richard Cuthbert, create a twin environmental disaster.

Efforts are being coordinated with the SANCCOB (The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), an internationally recognized leader in seabird rehabilitation, to bring personnel and critical equipment to this remote island to help avert this life-threatening situation.

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One Response

  1. Is anyone prosecuting the financial backers of this disaster? Anyone curious how “sailors” ran aground in the middle of the vastest of vast waters? Anyone drawn the conclusion this ship was bound for the Singapore illegal trade market in endangered species? Anyone want to create a competent, enforced nature-oriented international authority to protect and enhance the ocean’s biology? Anyone also sick of a few humans benefiting from the prioritization of trade and capitalism over life?

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