Seabirds die after ingesting deadly palm oil

8/2/13- Guillemots being cleaned at the Mallydams RSPCA Centre, Fairlight
8/2/13- Guillemots being cleaned at the Mallydams RSPCA Centre, Fairlight

ELEVEN birds have been found dead on the Worthing coast in the last ten days as a result of palm oil.

The lumps of white fat being washed up on the beach are known to be dangerous to dogs but now there are fears for other wildlife.

Eight razorbills and guillemots, which are both small black and white birds were found dead on the beach on February 18 and a further three were found by a dog walker on Monday.

Walkers are now being urged to contact the beach office or the Worthing And District Animal Rescue Service if they spot birds on the beach.

Senior animal rescue officer Billy Elliott said: “Post mortems have been carried out and the birds are showing no signs of injury or illness so we are pretty sure that it is probably the palm oil that is responsible for the deaths.

“The two types of birds are very similar, the guillemots have a longer pointy beak while the razorbills have a stubby, fatter beak.

“Both look a lot like mini penguins but they normally spend their time at sea.

“They dive into the water and swim on the surface until they see a fish then they dive in again.

“This is when they are ingesting the palm oil. If it makes dogs ill it is certainly not going to be good for birds.”

Mr Elliott says that dead razorbills and guillemots were first spotted washed up at Littlehampton harbour around six weeks ago.

“Now the palm oil has obviously come along the coast but we are hoping that this rough weather will help to disperse it so that no more casualties occur.

“We would like people to be vigilant and to contact either WADARS or the beach office if they see either of these birds up on the beach. It is not a place that we normally see them so if they have come out of the sea it is normally a very good indication that something is wrong.

“We have already saved one bird that has been washed up so if people let us know hopefully we can save more.”

Palm oil is congealed and smells rotten but dogs are drawn to it.

People are urged not to wait for symptoms to kick in before contacting a vet if they suspect their pet has been in contact with the hazardous substance.