THE Ballina-based Australian Seabird Rescue (ASR) organisation has put out an urgent national call for help to get their trained wildlife rescuers to the oil-spill devastated Gulf of Mexico.

President and co-founder Marny Bonner has been in contact with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the International Bird Rescue Centre in California, which are both struggling to cope with the unfolding environmental catastrophe following the worst oil spill in US history.

“They need trained specialists who can hit the ground running,” she said.

“Our members are highly skilled in the rescue and rehabilitation of pelicans and seabirds, and can train local volunteers for an ongoing sustainable response, but we need at least $10,000 to fund the exercise.

“Since this morning we've been gifted $1000 and one plane ticket.”

Ms Bonner plans to use the ticket to fly out this week to arrange a partnership with an appropriate local wildlife agency and organise accommodation, transport and other logistics so a rescue team can leave for the US as soon as possible.

While oil continues to gush into the gulf, the environmental devastation is stretching US agencies to the limit and a solution to the ruptured well may still be months away.

BP claims to have collected 28,000 barrels of oil from the ruptured well, but that is only a fraction of what continues to spew into the Gulf.

Ms Bonner has two teams of four trained volunteers with passports ready who were registered with the BP Horizon Response Centre in Louisiana and had invaluable experience from the 1995 Iron Baron oil spill in Tasmania.

“US authorities have been inundated with untrained volunteers who usually aren't physically and emotionally equipped to deal with the trauma associated with an environmental disaster like this,” she said.

Rescue workers have been struggling to catch the distressed birds and were yesterday considering net guns.

Through decades of hands-on experience, Ms Bonner and her partner, the late Lance ‘the Pelican Man' Ferris, have developed a range of techniques to catch pelicans and other wildlife.

“Wildlife is predator-aware and chasing pelicans is a waste of time and causes unnecessary stress,” she said.

ASR members are licensed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and tax deductible donations can be made online at www.seabirdrescue.org.



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