Not Just Cleaning Pelicans: Support Volunteers Needed in Gulf

The Washington Post reports today there’s a huge need for volunteers in support roles in the BP oil disaster — but many of those roles are going unfilled:

Pelicans at Cat Island“We struggle to get volunteers,” said Steve Lenahan, associate director of community centers for Catholic Charities. Volunteers are needed to help people, but most show up wanting to save birds and other wildlife, said Lexie Montgomery, volunteer coordinator for the National Audubon Society, which has accumulated 27,000 names in its volunteer database since the leak began.

“I have friends of mine in New York City who want to wash a pelican, and I was like, ‘You’ll probably hurt the pelican,'” Montgomery said. “When I was first in Venice, people were frantically driving down to help, traffic increased and I was noticing turtles getting run over.”

If people really want to help on the ground, they should be ready for a longer-term commitment, said Nancy Torcson, director of Clearwater Wildlife Sanctuary in Covington, La. The sanctuary has begun training 20 volunteers at a time to deploy for one-month rotations.

The most direct way to help people and animals is to donate money, Torcson said. Many people have been wary about doing this because of the manmade nature of the disaster, but children in Covington recently hosted lemonade stands to raise funds for the sanctuary to import live fish to feed distressed pelicans.

Not all of us know how to clean oiled wildlife, but we can do our part, either by volunteering or donating to provide support. That’s why NWF is organizing Gulf Coast Surveillance Teams — to help serve as the eyes & ears of rehabilitators by helping find oiled wildlife.

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