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Should we euthanize oil-soaked birds?
Certain animal biologists say that very few sea birds survive an oil bath, even if they're captured and cleaned. Is it kinder just to kill them?
 
A pelican soaked in oil from the BP spill.
A pelican soaked in oil from the BP spill.
Getty

German animal biologist Silvia Gaus has some tough advice for the people heroically trying to rescue and clean the pelicans and other birds tarred by the BP oil spill: "Kill, don't clean." As heartbreaking as it might be to euthanize them, Gaus argues, "serious studies" show that the medium-term survival of oil-soaked birds is about 1 percent — and the rest die a painful death. Is it really more humane to kill the birds than to try to rehabilitate them? (See footage of birds and fish covered in oil)

Many birds can still be rehabilitated: While experts at the World Wildlife Fund have agreed with Gaus in the case of heavily oiled birds, says Devorah Bennu in ScienceBlogs, many lightly oiled birds can be saved. And Gaus "conveniently ignores" data that shows much better survival rates — 50 to 80 percent — depending on the spill. "Certainly, it is in our best interests (and those of wildlife) to understand why there are such wildly variable survival rates before forcing a blanket policy of euthanasia."
"Oiled seabirds: To kill or not to kill? What is the ethical thing to do?"

Mercy killings are probably the humane choice: Rescuing the "birds and wildlife we love so much" seems like one of the few concrete ways we can help, says Sharon Stiteler at MinnPost. But even if the birds survive our cleaning — a big "if" — "the goal with wildlife rehab is to get the bird back out in the wild," and the only wild these birds know is a "lethal mess" that's only getting worse by the day.
"Birdchick: Should oil spill birds be euthanized?"

We should focus on saving un-oiled birds: There's no reason to stop the worthwhile bird-cleaning effort, says Leslie Kaufman in The New York Times. But our "first priority" should be to save the next generation of birds, which means protecting the as-yet-unsullied nesting areas in Texas and Florida. "Bird rescue has gotten much better," but we can't stop them from instinctually returning home to nest.
"Can the rescued pelicans stay clean?"

 

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