South-Atlantic spill slimes birds

Endangered penguins at risk

An estimated 20,000 birds may have been affected by oil spilled from a cargo ship that in mid-March slammed into the shore of Nightingale Island, an island in the South Atlantic Ocean that is home to rare birds, a lobster fishery and half of the world’s population of endangered northern rockhopper penguins, according to The Associated Press and British media reports.

The Malta-registered M.S. Oliva ran aground on the island, which is part of the British overseas territory Tristan da Cunha, resulting in a 1,650-ton crude-oil spill that spread into an eight-mile slick. The slick dissipated within a few days, but scientists are concerned about hundreds of oil-covered birds that have washed ashore. They are especially worried about the northern rockhopper penguin, crested birds known for their wacky, brightly colored “hair.” The creatures are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.