Preparations in place to care for wildlife

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by Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on May 5, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 5 at 5:29 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- As a broken oil wellhead continues to pour hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the effects on wildlife -- and marine life, in particular -- may begin to become clearer in the next few days.

"Close eyes are being kept out right now," said Michele Kelley, with the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans.

Kelley is also the Stranding Coordinator for Louisiana, and said the Aquarium has set up an off-site facility on the West Bank to handle massive amounts of marine life that could be affected by the spill.

"We've always had the facility for rehabilitation of sea turtles and for dolphins, but at this point, we're expecting large numbers," she said.

Kelley also said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are constantly searching the Louisiana coast for affected wildlife. The search is made all the more difficult, though, because of the complex landscape.

"We don't have these nice perfect, white sandy beaches where we can get on an ATV [All-Terrain Vehicle] and drive straight down there and just pick up," she said. "We have marshes."

The environmental watchdog group "Louisiana Bucket Brigade" has set up their own online mapping system. They are encouraging people to report any oil spill effects they may see by going to oilspill.labucketbrigade.org or texting the information and location to (504) 272-7645.

So far, there are few wildlife reports, but the fear is that could change.

"I think, unfortunately, we're going to see a lot of wildlife impacts over time," said the Louisiana Bucket Brigade's Anne Rofles. "Just because it hasn't hit yet doesn't mean it's not going to hit."

Some people, though, aren't waiting for the oil to hit. Danielle Nelson and her co-workers at a local non-profit in the Marigny began collecting supplies to help clean oil off any affected creatures. The supplies will then be sent to the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary Volunteer Program.

"We're looking for nets, blue Dawn dish washing detergent, soft cloths and towels," Nelson said. "You kind of feel helpless. So at the end of the day, anything we can do, we're just trying to make a difference."

For information on what additional supplies may be needed, call (504) 940-5780 or go to gulfresponse.org.

To report oiled wildlife, call (866) 557-1401.

To participate in the Louisiana Bucket Brigade's interactive mapping system, go to oilspill.labucketbrigade.org.

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