Rescue workers continue to rehabilitate animals after Michigan oil spill


After more than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River, emergency responders have taken in about 2,300 animals so far.

Kalamazoo, Mich.--Rescue workers in southern Michigan continue to clean and care for animals affected by a late-July oil spill that ravaged the Kalamazoo river.

A rehabilitation facility sponsored by Enbridge Inc.—the operator of the leaky pipeline—has served as the command center for the cleanup crew, which has taken in about 2,300 animals. Turtles make up close to 90 percent of those animals, prompting volunteers to anoint one part of the facility as “Snapperville.”

Using mayonnaise to loosen the coat of oil, volunteers use toothbrushes and cotton swabs to scrub the turtles. The turtles are temporarily housed in rows of black rubber bins. About 99 percent of the turtles have survived, and most have been cleaned and returned to the wild before the winter hibernation. About 300 aren’t strong, active or heavy enough to return, and might remain at the facility through the winter.

According to Dr. Chris Tabaka, a veterinarian at Binder Park Zoo near Battle Creek, Mich., the types of turtles affected by the spill can live up to 50 or 100 years.

Thirty-six species, including Canada geese, ducks, and muskrats, have been cared for following the spill. Nearly 300 volunteers have been trained to clean the animals and have donated a combined 6,400 hours since the spill.

The pipe, which runs from Griffith, Ind. to Sarnia, Ontario, sprung a leak on July 26 and dumped more than 800,000 gallons of oil into a creek that feeds into the Kalamazoo river.

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