Besieged by a spill

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

NINTH-ISLAND rookery, the picturesque abode of 12,000 penguins in southern Australia may well turn out to be the oily grave of these precious birds. Over 500 tonnes (t) of fuel oil leaked into the seas near the rookery after a 37,500-t ore carrier, the Iron Baron, hit a reef near a river mouth ' on the north coast of Tasmania.

The carrier has now been floated off the reef, but the threat to local birdlife continues undiminished, as the oil slick has reached an uninhabited island fur- ther out to sea. According to Tasmania's wildlife authority, an estimated 2,000 birds, besides considerable numbers of marine life, have been struck by the oily scourge; pelicans, cormorants and sea eagles are're'portedly reeling under the oil-rush.

But the rescue operations by the concerned authorities have been successful beyond measure. So far only 6 penguins have died. Six hundred and seventy birds - all of them cleaned and dried at a special Centre set up at the mouth of Tasmania's Tamar river - are being kept in sand-floored shipping containers until the oil soaked rookeries are cleaned up.

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