Evil Bird Scientists Not Sure We Should Be Cleaning Oil Off of Birds

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This bird will forever haunt our dreams. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

There is debate brewing right now about whether we should be cleaning off wild birds that get covered in our oil, or whether we should just put them out of their misery. On the one side, there are heartless scientists who pretend to care about the overall welfare of birds.

“It might make us feel better to clean them up and send them back out,” says Daniel Anderson, an ornithologist at the University of California, Davis. “But there’s a real question of how much it actually does for the birds, aside from prolong their suffering.”

People like Anderson — or this German biologist/sadist, who unambiguously supports euthanizing oil-covered birds — point out that in previous efforts, birds would return to the wild only to get stuck in the oil again or die from complications from the oil and/or cleaning process. And they have studies and facts on their side.

For example:

In 1995, ornithologist Brian Sharp published a study in Ibis: the International Journal of Avian Science concluding that for oiled, cleaned guillemots, life expectancy after their release into the wild was 9.6 days and long-term recovery rates were 10-20% of those of non-oiled birds. For a story ten years after the Exxon Valdez leak, Sharp told ABC News’ Bill Blakemore in 1999 that half the birds rescued and treated and returned to the wild “were dead within five days of release. The rest die within a matter of weeks, and only 1 in 100 survives a year.”

But executives at the International Bird Rescue and Research Center (IBRRC), who are probably biased toward bird rescuing, contend that these studies are out of date, and that tweaking the cleaning methods over the years has pushed the survival rate to 80 percent for some species. Whatever the data shows, the fact is that some of these birds — innocent creatures who were just out enjoying life before man's oil lust raped their habitats — will survive if we clean them. All of those that we euthanize will die, if we're any good at it. If we're a bird, we'll take our chances with the cleaning.

Should We Clean Oiled Animals? [Newsweek]
Bird Rescuers in Gulf Strongly Dispute Nay-Sayers Who Call Their Work Futile [Political Punch/ABC News]