Flint RiverQuarium employees prepare for Gulf Coast Rescue - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

RiverQuarium employees prepare for Gulf Coast Rescue

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By Tayleigh Davis - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A crew from Albany is still waiting for the "okay" to head down to the Gulf Coast to help save wildlife. That team includes a bird specialist at the Flint RiverQuarium who has experience removing oil from birds.

It's feeding time at the Flint RiverQuarium. I even got acquainted with a little blue jay who must have thought my camera was a tree. Bird specialist Amanda Barber will volunteer her time to save birds in the Gulf, including species at the RiverQuarium such as the Blue Heron, ducks, and Egrets.

"This isn't going to go away in a week and every bird you see when you go to the beach is in trouble," Barber said. "Every bird you see out even in the ponds-they're in trouble."

She understands oil stops them from being waterproof which means they lose insulation. They could even become overheated or chilled.

"If that oil seeps in, they're getting it all over their legs, they're getting it on their face as they try to get fish which are now oil covered."

That's one reason they use Pepto-Bismol to clear the birds' digestive tracts. Barber says out of all the birds rescued only half will likely survive, not to mention other wildlife including alligators and turtles. As a wildlife volunteer, she understands the reality that an everyday citizen volunteer may not.

"They're thinking they can go down there and save every animal and bring it back to health and release it, honestly that's not how it's going to be at all."

Barber and her group aren't sure what to expect, but they're preparing for the worst. Barber has experience removing oil from a swan that got covered in oil last fall.

Education Manager Melissa Martin will accompany Barber to the coast. Even if a whole generation of birds is at risk, her focus is on preservation.

"Conservation is very important and we want to have those animals available for the next generation to see," Martin said.

Whether the birds are in captivity or in the wild, their goal is to save as many lives as they can. Barber and other group members are waiting for clearance from the disaster Unified Command Center before they head to the Gulf Coast. First, they must receive hazmat training, and they're looking for a center in the Albany area. Learn more about the threats the oil leak poses to wildlife in the Gulf Coast region.

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