For thousands of years, wetlands have been a valuable resource for people and wildlife. Wetlands are useful rest areas for many migrating birds and provide important nesting grounds for a wide variety of fish, crabs and other aquatic animals. They can help prevent erosion, filter and clean water and prevent inland flooding. Forty percent of the wetlands of the contiguous United States are located on Louisiana's southern coast. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is likely to have a major impact on these already troubled wetlands and the animals that rely on them.
Already, shorebirds are being rescued from the oil slicks. These birds land in oily slicks that float on the water and become unable to fly as the oil coats their feathers and weighs them down. Rescue workers are standing by to rehabilitate these birds with vital fluids and to clean their feathers. While birds are likely the first and most obvious animals that will suffer from the oil that coats the surface of the ocean, which they use for food and habitat, many other animals also will be affected. Sea turtles, whales, shrimp and fish are all in the path of destruction.
People and organizations from all over the country and the world are rallying to help save the sensitive Gulf habitats and the animals that rely on them. If you are interested in helping either by donating money or manpower, there are several organizations which have stepped up to lend a hand in this crisis.
The Audubon Nature Institute, located in New Orleans, has gathered its resources to help rehabilitate oiled sea turtles and marine mammals. This is a nationally accredited zoo and aquarium with highly trained staff that are ready to apply their expertise in this time of need. The Institute has established a base of operations at the head of the Mississippi River delta and is waiting to rescue animals in need. If you would like to donate time or money to the Audubon Institute, visit www.auduboninstitute.org/gulf-oil-spill-resources for more information.
If you would like a faster way to donate money, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is accepting donations via text. You can donate $10 to on-the-ground volunteer and restoration efforts by texting "WILDLIFE" TO 20222. The NWF works worldwide to protect animals through advocacy and habitat conservation.
For those of you who are interested in a more novel way to help, A Matter of Trust is accepting donations of hair and nylons for use in creating oil booms. The natural properties of hair and fur make them highly absorbent and an excellent natural fiber for containing oil. Donated hair and fur is stuffed into nylons to create miles of booms to help protect coast lines from drifting oil. All human head hair and animal hair is welcome, but donations from salons and groomers which can be shipped in bulk are particularly appreciated. If you are interested in donating hair, fur or nylons, visit www.matteroftrust.org/programs/hairmatsinfo.html to sign up.
As we continue to watch the efforts to stop and mediate the damage of the oil spill, it is important to remember that many of the effects of the oil will not end when the oil is contained. The habitats and animals of the Gulf Coast area are likely to suffer damages and require our attention for many years to come. Hopefully this situation will help remind us of the importance of conserving habitats not only in the Gulf, but also worldwide.