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Oil spill in Tristan da Cunha archipelago endangers penguins

A colony of penguins in the South Atlantic has been coated with oil, after a cargo ship grounded on the remote Tristan da Cunha islands.

The ship came aground last week on Nightingale Island, and crude oil which was onboard when the ship grounded has said to have coated a colony of Northern Rockhopper penguins in the dark sticky substance. The MS Olivia was carrying 60,000 tonnes of soya beans from Brazil to Singapore when she got into difficulties off the islands; it is believed that the ship has now broken in two.

Alongside the beans, the ship was estimated to be carrying 1,500 tonnes of crude oil. It is estimated that the oil slick now extends for around 8 miles offshore with thousands of penguins being oiled as a result of the spill.

Richard Cuthbert, who is a research biologist for the RSPB stated:

"The consequences of this wreck could be potentially disastrous for wildlife and the fishery-based economy of these remote islands.

“Over 200,000 penguins are currently on the islands and these birds will be heavily impacted by leaking oil.”

One salvage vessel has arrived on the scene, but it does not have all the necessary spill control equipment to deal with this size of spill. A specialist spill control vessel is expected on the scene shortly.

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