Oil covered penguins raise fears of spill

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More than 150 oiled African penguins have been found on Dyer Island (South Africa) and elsewhere on the southern Cape coast in the past few days, raising fears of a big oil slick in the area.

On Tuesday, more oiled birds were seen on Dyer Island, south-east of Danger Point, but could not be caught.

All of the captured penguins have been taken to the Rietvlei headquarters of Sanccob (the South African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds).

Lauren Waller of CapeNature, which manages Dyer Island as a nature reserve, confirmed on Tuesday that 110 oiled penguins had been collected from the island

Another 28 had been found at the Stony Point colony at Betty’s Bay – one of only three known breeding colonies of this species on the mainland.

Ten penguins had been picked up at the De Hoop nature reserve east of Arniston and there was a report of at least one at Cape Agulhas, Waller said.

“But it is hard to say whether these birds (from De Hoop and Agulhas) were all oiled from the same source,” she added.

The first oiled bird had been spotted on Dyer Island on July 31, and numbers had grown from a handful over the following days to 44 on Friday, 20 on Sunday and 43 on Monday.

All the relevant authorities have been notified, Waller said.

A Kuswag pollution control plane from the department of environmental affairs and tourism flew over the area on Sunday but the weather prevented it from detecting any spill.

Waller said the Overstrand Marines and, particularly, Gansbaai commercial whale-watching operator Wilfred Chivall had provided good support in catching the oiled birds and transporting them from the island.

The oil on the birds appeared fresh and was therefore likely to have been from a fresh spill or a ship illegally cleaning its tanks, Waller added.

She appealed to anyone finding an oiled bird to contact Sanccob at 021 557 6155/6 or CapeNature at 028 314 1814 and not to attempt to clean it themselves, as this is a specialist operation.

Source: Cape Argus