Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do for these animals. From the Guardian:

To date, 1,282 seabirds have been taken from the oil, of which 725 were already dead. Forty have been cleaned and returned to the wild, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The figures are even bleaker for sea turtles: 324 of the 387 recovered were dead. Three have been returned to the wild. All 42 of the dolphins stranded by the spill died.

“There is a lot of debate about whether these are just mercy missions,” said Elizabeth Griffin, a marine scientist at Oceana.

The scientific literature is divided. Two years after a 1990 spill in southern California, fewer than 10% of the rescued brown pelicans could be found, and none of those went on to breed, one research paper found.

Other papers pointed to a higher survival rate, and conservationists say there is an ethical obligation to try to right the damage done by the spill. “What should we do? Just let them die?” said Jay Holcomb, the director of the International Bird Research Centre, which is involved in the rescue effort.

There is an additional consideration in the case of the brown pelican. The birds were brought to the brink of extinction by the use of pesticides in the early 1960s, and were only last year removed from the endangered species list. “If you have a threatened species, every single individual in that population that is rescued and returns to breeding status is critically important,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation.

In some cases, though, the animals are beyond saving. “They are going to be so damaged and so harmed by getting into the oil that it may not be appropriate to clean and rehabilitate them,” he said.

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