Wildlife Victims Of The Oil Slick
Turned into unrecognisable monsters by the oil: Sickening new images of the helpless wildlife dying in the muck of the BP spill
The bird struggles out of the sludge, fighting for air, oil dripping from its wings.
It could be an image from a grisly sci-fi movie. But it is not. This bird is a shocking illustration of the catastrophic impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on local wildlife.
The pelican – the official bird of Louisiana – was one of a number that were saved off the coast of the state.
A brown pelican is seen on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast
Horror: A sea bird is unrecognisable as it fights to free itself from oil at East Grand Terre Island beach, Louisiana
They were barely able to walk or get out of the sea near East Grand Terre island, where officials found around 35 of the birds.
They were treated with detergents to wash off the oil. Many more animals have not been so lucky. More than 400 dead birds have so far been recovered.
Images such as this will only fuel anger towards BP as the spill enters its 46th day and the company struggles to stem the flow of oil from the ruptured Deepwater Horizon well.
Helpless: A pelican sits dejectedly on the shoreline with its wing feathers so tarred by oil that it is unable to fly
Suffering: The treacle-like sludge is hard to clean off and many birds are choking to death on it
Previously, photographs of wildlife coated in an oily sheen were as bad as it got. But now the animals are drowning in the muck, as thick and sticky as treacle, and much, much harder to clean up.
Crude oil has been pouring unchecked into the Gulf of Mexico at up to 19,000 barrels (800,000 gallons) a day since an explosion on April 20 that demolished a BP-contracted drilling platform off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 crewmen.
It unleashed an environmental disaster of epic proportions. The spill is now the worst in U.S. history – worse than the Exxon Valdez spill – and there is no end in sight yet.
Victim: A dead bird lies on its back as a torrent of sludge amid the tide carries it to shore
Death zone: An eagle flies over a vast brown area of the oil spill where so many other birds have perished
Vast: A ship deploying an oil float shows the scale of the disaster as the spillage spreads for miles around
BP has failed in repeated attempts to stop the leak, and it has now spread from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to lap at the shores of Florida's white beaches.
Symbolic: Crosses with the names of fish and activities that have been lost fill a yard in Grand Isle, Louisiana
The moving danger: A computer-generated model of how the oil could spread into the Atlantic Ocean
The U.S. National Centre for Atmospheric Research projected that the oil slick would be driven by wind and currents around the Florida peninsula by early summer and up the East Coast, possibly as far as North Carolina.
The Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and will last until October. The prospect of a massive storm spreading the oil, hampering efforts to cap the leak, is chilling.
Back in the Gulf, wildlife officials said 60 birds at the Queen Bess Island Pelican Rookery in Louisiana, including 41 pelicans, were found coated in oil before being caught and taken to a rehabilitation centre.
The brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird, was removed from the federal endangered species list last year.
A bird that feeds by plunge-diving for fish in the open surf, the brown pelican has been among the hardest hit birds by the spill.