Saving wildlife from the Gulf
Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- As the footprint of the oil spill widens, so do efforts to save wildlife.
Rehab facilities are seeing a spike in the number of birds, and other animals, needing treatment.
Right now volunteers seem to be collecting more dead animals than live ones, but the ones that can be treated go through an extensive washing and monitoring process.
Something experts say is incredibly stressful for the animals.
"They can't move some of them are just mired down and stuck and then some of them can walk around but they certainly can't fly," says Tish Gailmard, wildlife rehabilitator.
Now more than ever we're seeing the effects that 19,000 barrels of oil running into the Gulf daily has on wildlife.
"They also loose that wonderful coating that keeps them insolated against cold so they can actually suffer from hypothermia even in a very warm climate," says Darde Long.
Darde Long director for the Chattanooga Zoo has been keeping close tabs on the wildlife rescue efforts, especially since she's handled oiled animals before.
"These guys were in the same shape. I mean they were covered with oil they, couldn't fly and they were obviously in danger of losing their lives," says Darde.
Ten years ago Long was part of a team that treated a flock of geese that were covered in diesel oil after landing in a Chattanooga retention pond.
"Dawn dish washing liquid really does work great and we used tons of it. We bathed them everyday for a while and then we went to every other day," says Long.
With over a thousand animals already collected and the numbers climbing fast, the rehabilitation process for many of these birds will be much shorter.
"They get it off all they're feathers everywhere and then I'm sure the bird is kept for a while and monitored and re-released," Tish Gailmard.
Tish Gailmard has years of experience as a wildlife rehabilitator. She says the real life-threatening danger comes when the oil is digested.
"Birds preen their feathers so they're ingesting oil at that point which certainly can make them sick if not kill them," says Gailmard.
The zoo director says they feed the geese they treated all those years ago antidiarrheal medicine to help with digestion.
Right now the animals that have been treated are being re-released in Florida.