Seven weeks ago, a cargo ship ran aground off the coast of New Zealand, spilling oil which resulted in the worst maritime environmental disaster in the nation's history. Among the victims were dozens of little penguins which washed ashore blackened by oil and near death. Fortunately wildlife rescuers were on hand to help them, meticulously scrubbing clean their feathery coats and nursing them back to health with devotion befitting of such beloved birds. But now, after nearly two months on the mend and before hundreds of eager spectators, 49 little penguins finally made their way delightedly back to sea.
Check out those happy penguins:
The 49 penguins released today are the first to return to the wild after being rescued from September's oil spill and rehabilitated thanks to Maritime New Zealand, a group that supports ocean conservation. Around 350 people turned out to watch the excited birds waddle back home.
Volunteers from the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team were first on the scene to save hundreds of oil-covered animals in the crucial early hours following New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster. According to the group's coordinator, Kerri Morgan, support for their clean-up efforts came from across New Zealand and throughout the world:
"We’ve had so many people give up their time to help us care for the animals. Also, beyond the wildlife team, it’s important to recognize that every person who has contributed to the oil spill response has also played a part in the release today."