It was heartening to see the birds take off. Six out of seven oil-soaked Canada Geese rescued were released in Brennan Park this week (the seventh had to be put down because it had a broken hip).
Presumably Gearbulk, the Norwegian owners of the oil-losing container ship the Westwood Anette, paid quite a lot of money per bird to have them rescued by Focus Wildlife and taken to Vancouver to be cleaned.
But the point was not so much to have them pay through the nose for the accident as it was to assist as much oil covered wildlife as possible under the circumstances.
So seven out of around 100 contaminated birds is a pretty poor percentage. If it were a school test, seven per cent would be a resounding "F" and remedial classes would be in order.
The rescue, starting a week after the accident because Gearbulk was under no obligation to initiate immediately wildlife recovery and because our ministries and various services were also not obliged to sort it out either, at best seemed like a half-hearted attempt (Focus's efforts notwithstanding) and at worst an absolute failure in strategy and responsibility. If it were human beings instead of animals being dealt with this way you could make easy comparisons with what happened between FEMA and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, albeit on a far smaller scale. Neglect is neglect.
Chris Battaglia of Focus said his company was denied access to cannon nets belonging to the Canadian Wildlife Service. CWS spokesman Dave Smith said Focus was not trained to use the cannon nets. Focus denies this. And now animal recovery is suspended.
Soap opera overtones aside, it is important that something not only be learned from this, but that an enforceable policy be enacted on behalf of our wildlife after similar future accidents. Determination to rescue animals seems to have left with the Anette.
As Elizabeth Thunstrom, of the Wildlife Rehabilitator's Network of B.C., states in a letter on page A11, California has had a formal response system since 1971 and is considered an international model. Maybe the Provincial and Federal governments should take a look at it.