Puffin ready for release after oil spill trauma

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A tough little puffin who survived a recent oil spill off the coast of Scarborough is almost ready to be released back into the wild.

The bird was brought to Scarborough Sea Life Centre by a concerned member of the public just before Easter, where staff were already caring for five guillemots and a razorbill who had suffered the same fate.

131446f A perky picture of perfect puffin health, cleaned and nursed back to fitness by Todd German, at Scarborough Sea Life Centre.  Photo by Andrew Higgins    06/04/2013

131446f A perky picture of perfect puffin health, cleaned and nursed back to fitness by Todd German, at Scarborough Sea Life Centre. Photo by Andrew Higgins 06/04/2013

Senior aquarist Todd German explained that the birds had suffered both due to the oil and recent bad weather.

He said: “When birds become oiled, they lose the waterproofing which is so vital to them. They can end up going hypothermic and they can’t feed.

“Puffins especially have had a terrible time recently - they’ve been hit from all corners.

“Thousands have been washing up on the shores further up north and as far down as Mablethorpe.

“This is the only one we’ve recovered who was still alive. It’s been heartbreaking.”

The puffin, who is approximately two years old, will be released with the other birds - weather permitting - at RSPB Bempton later this week.

Todd, who has been caring for the birds along with other staff, had to even take the puffin home and tube feed it at one point to keep the bird alive.

He said: “He was at death’s door and it was important to get some fluids into him.

“In about six hours he started to come round. They’re incredibly robust creatures, but they’ve had a lot to deal with lately.”

The coldest March since 1962 is also thought to be largely responsible for the unprecedented 14 seal rescues the Sea Life Centre’s sanctuary has been involved in.

“We are still taking lots of calls reporting seals in distress, and could get even busier in the weeks ahead,” said displays curator Lyndsey Crawford.

She is making an appeal for any local residents who want to do a little bit to help to do so by contributing any old towels they no longer need.

“Towels are particularly useful on our seal rescue missions and if anyone has any to donate and can bring them to the centre we can certainly make good use of them,” she added.