First Endangered Turtles Found Slathered in Oil

The oil spill in the gulf of Mexico is slowly taking its toll on the surrounding wildlife.

An endangered baby Kemp's ridley sea turtle was discovered lathered in oil on Tuesday, May 18. This is the first rescued sea turtle known to be affected by the gargantuan oil spill in the gulf of Mexico.

The Kemp's ridley sea turtle has been on the the Louisiana endangered species list since 1989. "In recent years, the Kemp's population has slowly started to recover, so we hope to mitigate any decline in this species due to the oil spill," reported Secretary Robert Barham from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).

Fully covered in dark oil, the young sea turtle was difficult to spot, reported the rescue crew. The turtle has been under the attentive care and surveillance of the Audubon Aquarium's Aquatic Center (AAAC) in New Orleans since it was found 33 nautical miles offshore. As of Friday, a second Kemp's ridley and a loggerhead turtle have been found covered in oil too.

So far, wildlife workers have seen very little oiled wildlife along the Gulf coast - good news, but somewhat mysterious given the enormity of the spill. Hundreds of unoiled, dead animals have been collected, from dolphins to loggerhead turtles.

Doused in dawn soap and scrubbed with a toothbrush, the freshly cleaned turtle is is a hopeful reminder that rescuing and cleaning affected animals can be done in a timely manner.

But the rescue team was only working with one animal. Will the rescue facilities be able to keep up the rapid pace if the number of oiled animals goes through the roof?

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in one of the worst locations possible. Numerous species call the gulf their home.

The whale shark is one such animal that is extremely vulnerable to the oil spill. The whale shark was added to the World's Conservation List of threatened species in 2008.The gulf is one of the whale shark's primary feeding spots.

More than one-third of all whale shark sightings have been in the gulf since 2002, explained Eric Hoffmayer, a scientist from the University of Southern Mississippi. Fortunately, no whale sharks have been seen around the oil spill. But that does not mean they are in the clear.

"The best case scenario is they can detect the oil and avoid it," said Hoffmayer. Other sharks, however, have been spotted around the oil spill.

Other animals reported to have suffered from the oil spill include a Northern Gannet, a beautiful seabird, and a brown pelican. The Gannet is being cared for in Mississippi.

The poor pelican, however, was claimed by the oil.

Image: Terry Ross, Flickr