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RENA update from Maritime NZ (174)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011 1:00 p.m.

The release this morning of 49 little blue penguins at Mount Maunganui is a major milestone in the ongoing oil spill response to the Rena grounding, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

Forty-nine penguins were released this morning, marking the first major release of wildlife in a staged programme which will continue for the next few weeks.

The Director of MNZ, Catherine Taylor, today thanked the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team (NOWRT) for their contribution to the overall oil spill response.

The NOWRT is trained, managed and coordinated by specialists at Massey University. In addition to Massey staff, the NOWRT consists of other wildlife specialists and coordinators from the regions.

This team is under contract to MNZ to provide an oiled wildlife response in the event of a marine oil spill.

Ms Taylor said the team had mobilised within hours of Rena grounding, and had very quickly established a facility for treating and housing the animals.

"Rena ran aground seven weeks ago today," Ms Taylor said.

"The oiled wildlife response team has been working tirelessly since then to collect and care for the animals affected by this spill.

"Their work has seen hundreds of birds rescued and nursed back to health, when otherwise they would not have survived."

Ms Taylor said a large number of other agencies and individuals had been integral to the overall effectiveness of the response.

"The local knowledge and expertise provided by Department of Conservation personnel has been invaluable to the response," Ms Taylor said.

The team has also been supported by wildlife specialists from around New Zealand and Australia, as well as US-based specialists from the conservation group International Bird Rescue and Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

NOWRT coordinator Kerri Morgan echoed Ms Taylor's gratitude for the support the team had received.

"This has truly been a team effort," Miss Morgan said.

"We have had support from all over the country, and from our international colleagues. We have had an outstanding level of support from the local community. We've had so many people give up their time to help us care for the animals.

"Also, beyond the wildlife team, it's important to recognise that every person who has contributed to the oil spill response has also played a part in the release today.

"The oil spill response teams have been working for weeks now to get the beaches to a standard safe to return the animals into - we also have to thank the salvors, the volunteers and the New Zealand Defence Force."

Miss Morgan said the birds had all been micro-chipped and would be monitored to see whether the spill affects their long-term health.


Watch the footage of the penguin release here.

Penguins released