Washington, Oct 28 (DPA) Among the saddest images from BP Plc's three-month-long oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico were those of oil-slicked birds struggling to survive. US officials said preliminary information showed the disaster may have killed up to 6,104 birds and 609 turtles.
But on the positive side, the figures showed that more than 14,000 turtle hatchlings emerged from nests that were relocated to beaches away from the oil spill.
The report was issued Wednesday by the unified command that oversaw efforts to stop the oil flowing from the Deepwater Horizon well in the US Gulf of Mexico. The well gushed from April to July, washing oil into fragile wetlands during prime pelican nesting season, devastating the shrimp harvest and delivering economic ruin along four Gulf coast states.
In July, the well was provisionally capped. It was finally sealed with cement in September.
The report was based on input from wildlife collection centres, government departments and other sources, but officials warned that the figures reflected "only the initial, field-level, evaluation".
More investigation was needed and not all of the injured and dead wildlife were "necessarily" caused by the BP spill, officials said.
Birds were the hardest hit by the spill. The dead bodies collected far outnumbered the number of live rescues, which were put at 2,079. After being cleaned up and rehabilitated, 1,246 birds have been released to date.
Turtles appeared to have a better chance of survival. Rescue workers collected 535 turtles compared to the 609 found dead. In addition, workers transported 278 nests to pristine beaches, from which 14,676 hatchlings have emerged.
Nine mammals, including dolphins, were rescued alive, while 100 were found dead.