Seabirds rescued from oil are released back to the wild
They took to the sky and headed out to sea, free at last of the substance that has cost so many lives.
Twenty one of more than 300 contaminated seabirds taken to the RSPCA’s West Hatch wildlife centre near Taunton last month were released at Portland Bill yesterday.
Around 160 of the birds survived and will be released in batches, but many hundreds never made it to the centre.
They and the survivors were found struggling in an oily substance finally identified by Environment Agency scientists as Polyisobutylene, or butyl rubber, a colourless synthetic rubber.
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The vast majority of the birds were found on Dorset beaches but some birds were recovered as far afield as Cornwall and Folkestone, and even Ostend.
Most were guillemots but some were razorbills. Most were taken to West Hatch and some to Mallydams Wood in Hastings, where the first releases to the wild took place last week.
Peter Venn, manager at West Hatch, said: “Our staff have done a fantastic job in cleaning and caring for these birds and now some of them are strong and fit enough to be released back to the wild where they belong. They arrived in quite a weak state and needed quite a bit of care and attention to get them rehydrated, fed and strong again before we could wash the sticky substance off them.”
Staff initially tried to clean off the substance with washing up liquid, without success. Attempts using margarine were much more successful.