SeaWorld ready to help oiled animals from Santa Barbara spill

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Authorities were responding to an oil slick in the ocean off Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County on May 19, 2015. (Credit: KTLA)

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SAN DIEGO --- A specialized animal care team is on stand-by at SeaWorld ready to respond in the Santa Barbara oil spill.

“When they come to land it’s because there’s something devastatingly wrong,” said Kim Peterson.

Peterson is one of the team members at the Oiled Wildlife Care Clinic at SeaWorld San Diego. She’s been keeping a close eye on the Refugio State Beach spill.

“There are a zillion compounds in crude oil that are toxic to their vital organs,” said Peterson.

On Wednesday, the clinic began preparing for possible oiled birds and marine mammals brought in from the north. Peterson explained the process of how they would care for the animals.

“We look at their eyes, their plumage, their skin,” said Peterson.

The birds are then fed, rehydrated and once strong enough, the washing process begins, involving up to 3 people for one bird.

“One person to hold the bird, a second  person to hold the head and third person would very gently running the soapy water through the feathers,” said Kim. “It may take 15 to 20 tubs of soapy water to get all the oil out.”

If that wasn’t traumatic enough, following the washing process is rinsing.

“Which you’re spraying them with a fairly high sprayer and it can take almost as long to rinse them as to wash them,” said Peterson.

The Oiled Wildlife Care Center can take up to 200 bird and 20 marine mammals. Peterson said so far, they have not received word that help will be needed.

“But that could change in the next few days.”

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