There's been some debate over whether or not we should be cleaning up the grimy animal casualties from BP's oil spill. Over 500 nearly-alive birds have been recovered and cleaned since the catastrophe, but there's been a call by some scientists and even big-name conservationist group World Wildlife Fund to just euthanize the poor animals.
Those who say yes to euthanization claim that capturing the oiled birds only further stresses them out, and that even after a thorough cleaning the long term survival rate is ridiculously low. According to Silvia Gaus, a biologist at the Wattenmeer National Park, "the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent." Another study conducted by British Study showed that birds cleaned and released in other oil spills only survived for seven days.
Further, the collection and cleaning process causes the birds adds even more trauma and suffering. In a "How to Clean Oiled Birds " video, the instructor warns to clean them as quickly as possible, as the bird "thinks he's being eaten." Also, forcing a Pepto-Bismol coal solution down their throats won't save them from the eventual destruction of their liver and kidneys.
However, some people are saying we "owe them." As animal rescue sites find more and more oiled birds, their methods are improving:
"In the past, birds were cleaned right away, and volunteers often worked through the night bathing rescued birds," explains Newsweek reporter Jeneen Interlandi, "But, as research has since shown, the stress of capture and cleaning can be profoundly deleterious to a bird's health - knocking hormones out of balance and exacerbating organ damage. So now, captured birds are left to rest for a day or two before being cleaned, and only washed during the day, so as not to disrupt their circadian rhythms."
There's no clear-cut answer here. On the one hand, even cleaned birds will suffer from long-term health issues. On the other hand, can we really sit back and do nothing while they flounder?
Source: Discover Magazine