Treated birds are released at Pett Level

Guillemots being cleaned at the Mallydams RSPCA Centre, Fairlight
Guillemots being cleaned at the Mallydams RSPCA Centre, Fairlight

BIRDS affected by an oily substance in recent weeks have been released back into the wild.

More than 300 birds, mostly guillemots and razorbills, were found on beaches across the south coast covered in polyisobutylene (PIB).

Around 60 of them have been at Mallydams Wood wildlife rescue centre in Fairlight in the last three weeks being treated by specialists. More than 20 guillemots were then released back in the wild at Pett Level last Wednesday (February 20).

PIB or butyl rubber, is a colourless synthetic rubber.

Bel Deering, manager at Mallydams Wood, said: “Our staff have done a fantastic job in cleaning and caring for these birds and now some of them are strong and fit enough to be released back to the wild where they belong.

“They arrived in quite a weak state and needed quite a bit of care and attention to get them rehydrated, fed and strong again before we could wash the sticky substance off them.”

The remaining birds at the centre will continue their rehabilitation before being released back to sea in the coming weeks.

The first birds covered in the oily substance were found on January 29 then numbers increased dramatically over the next few days.

The vast majority were spotted on beaches in Dorset, mainly Chesil Beach, near Portland and Weymouth, some discovered further along the coast in Folkestone, Kent, one in Cornwall and a couple in the Isle of Wight.

Sadly many of those found on the beaches were dead, but inspectors and volunteers did their best to save as many as they could and take them to the RSPCA’s West Hatch wildlife rescue centre in Somerset.

The Environment Agency took a sample of the substance and sent it for testing with results showing it was PIB.

Staff at the wildlife centres initially tried to clean the substance off the birds with washing up liquid, but this did not get the substance off. Subsequent attempts to use margarine were a lot more successful.