Mystery sticky substance back to pollute birds

Staff at the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre wash a guillemot covered in a unknown pollutant

More than 30 guillemots have been rescued after being washed up on beaches across the south coast of England covered in a sticky substance.

The birds were collected from beaches stretching from Mevagissey in Cornwall to Plymouth and Whitsand Bay. They were affected by what appears to be same sticky substance that harmed their colonies two months ago.

Most of the birds were transported to the RSPCA West Hatch wildlife centre in Taunton. “Five birds transferred to West Hatch last night were in an extremely poor condition and were put to sleep to end their suffering,” said a spokesperson for the charity. “There is still no indication whether this is a new pollution incident or not.”

In February, scores of sea birds were injured and hundreds more killed by the pollutant, which affected a 200-mile stretch of coastline. About 300 birds, mostly guillemots, were treated at the West Hatch centre.

Experts at Plymouth University found the mystery substance was almost certain to be polyisobutene, an oil additive known as PIB, which has a chemical mixture ranging from oils to solids. But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it was unable to trace the source of the spill and confirmed it has closed the investigation.

Staff at West Hatch first tried to clean the birds with normal soapy water, which was not successful in removing the sticky substance, but eventually had more success with margarine.

2 responses to “Mystery sticky substance back to pollute birds

  1. Margarine – who’d have thought?! Do you know what produces PIB – cargo ships?

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