Gulf Disaster

Are Oil-Soaked Birds Better Off Dead?

People who glimpsed the horrifying photos of oil-soaked birds last week at least took comfort in the fact that the birds were, supposedly, saved. However, a German biologist named Silvia Gaus is recommending that the birds be euthanized, rather than cleaned and released. "According to serious studies, the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent," Gaus says. "We, therefore, oppose cleaning birds." Gaus says the capturing and cleaning of the birds leads to fatal amounts of stress, and forcing the birds to ingest coal solutions or Pepto Bismol in order to combat the oil’s poisons often just leads to fatal kidney and liver damage. Gaus worked in the 1998 cleanup effort after the Pallas oil spill in the North Sea. The World Wildlife Fund agrees with Gaus’ recommendations, saying, "Birds, those that have been covered in oil and can still be caught, can no longer be helped . . . Therefore, the World Wildlife Fund is very reluctant to recommend cleaning."