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Pre-emptive capture as a response option: case study of New Zealand dotterels during the Rena oil spill

Authors:

Abstract

Preventing the impacts of oil spills on wildlife should be a fundamental principle for all oiled wildlife response managers. The benefits of pre-emptive capture during oiled wildlife response can be summarised as 1) benefits to animal welfare, 2) benefits to conservation and 3) financial benefits. Despite these benefits being well recognised and demonstrable, pre-emptive capture remains a relatively uncommon response option during oil spills - this is particularly true for small shorebirds. A total of 60 threatened New Zealand dotterels were captured and housed in captivity for 1 – 3 months. Of the 60 birds captured only four were externally oiled to the point that washing was required. Intensive beach cleaning activities had enabled a total of 54 dotterels to be successfully returned to the wild by day 74 of the response. Health problems for captive birds were encountered and included minor trauma, pododermatitis and capture myopathy, and despite aggressive treatment five dotterels have so far died in captivity from aspergillosis infections. One dotterel remains in care and continues to be treated for aspergillosis. Here we discuss the decision making basis for the pre-emptive capture of New Zealand dotterels during the Rena oil spill and present a preliminary analysis to measure the success of these actions. This case study demonstrates the importance of pre-emptive capture as a potential response option for threatened shorebird species and discusses the associated benefits and risks.
EOW 2012 133
Pre-Emptive Capture as a Response Option – A Case Study of New Zealand Dotterels dur-
ing the Rena Oil Spill
Helen McConnell*1, Kerri Morgan1, Brett Gartrell1, John Dowding2, Brent Stephenson3 and Phil Battley4
1Institute of Veterinary, Animal & Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston
North 4442, New Zealand
2DM Consultants, Christchurch, New Zealand
3Eco-vista, Havelock North, New Zealand
4Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Preventing the impacts of oil spills on wildlife should be a fundamental principle for all oiled wildlife response
managers. The benets of pre-emptive capture during oiled wildlife response can be summarised as 1) benets
to animal welfare, 2) benets to conservation and 3) nancial benets. Despite these benets being well recog-
nised and demonstrable, pre-emptive capture remains a relatively uncommon response option during oil spills
- this is particularly true for small shorebirds.
A total of 60 threatened New Zealand dotterels were captured and housed in captivity for 1 – 3 months. Of
the 60 birds captured only four were externally oiled to the point that washing was required. Intensive beach
cleaning activities had enabled a total of 54 dotterels to be successfully returned to the wild by day 74 of the
response.
Health problems for captive birds were encountered and included minor trauma, pododermatitis and capture
myopathy, and despite aggressive treatment ve dotterels have so far died in captivity from aspergillosis infec-
tions. One dotterel remains in care and continues to be treated for aspergillosis.
Here we discuss the decision making basis for the pre-emptive capture of New Zealand dotterels during the
Rena oil spill and present a preliminary analysis to measure the success of these actions. This case study demon-
strates the importance of pre-emptive capture as a potential response option for threatened shorebird species and
discusses the associated benets and risks.
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