Penguins Plucked From Oil Spill in Massive Rescue

With 300 birds dead, thousands more in danger, rescuers ask for help

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 3, 2011 9:32 AM CDT

(Newser) – An isolated island chain halfway between Africa and Argentina, home to 140,000 penguins, is now in the midst of a massive rescue operation, after a shipwreck sent thousands of gallons of oil and soya bean into the waters there. More than 300 penguins have already died since the ship went down on March 16, and thousands more are covered in oil. "I've seen about 15 to 20 dead penguins just today," said the islands' conservation director."The danger now is getting the rest of these penguins past that oil slick."

Rescuers have captured 5,000 oil-covered birds so far, but are struggling to feed and clean the penguins. "The priority is to get food into the birds as they are very hungry," said one rescuer. "We need help." The Northern Rockhopper Penguin is classified as endangered, reports CNN, with 40% of the species' population living around the remote Tristan da Cunha archipelago.

Thousands of Northern Rockhopper Penguins are in danger after a massive oil spill in their home on the Tristan da Cunha archipelago.
Thousands of Northern Rockhopper Penguins are in danger after a massive oil spill in their home on the Tristan da Cunha archipelago.   (AP)
African Rock Hopper Penguins stand on rocks at Boulders Beach on June 6, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.
African Rock Hopper Penguins stand on rocks at Boulders Beach on June 6, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.   (Getty Images)
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