Gulf Oil Spill Disaster: The Animals Most at Risk

The Brown Pelican—the State Bird of Louisiana—uses the delicate wetlands of the Delta region to spawn and raise new generations. But state officials fear that decades of rebuilding the state's pelican population (they started in the 1960s with virtually none of the birds in the Pelican State) could be negated by the BP oil spill.

The first time around, pesticides like DDT had destroyed pelican populations. Now, the chemical ooze seeping in from the gulf could devastate the population once more.

Wildlife in the Gulf
Wildlife in the Gulf

Wildlife experts in Louisiana estimate that as many as 10,000 pairs of pelicans could be breeding at the moment in the affected area. Oil could continue to wash up near nesting areas for months and months to come. And since young pelicans like to wander around the affected marshland as they get their bearings, the oil contamination could spell disaster.

Pelicans spend much of their time floating on the surface of the water—the same place as the oil. Wildlife experts fear that their feathers could become coated in oil, causing them to lose buoyancy.

VIDEO: David Muir on the effort to save the animals affected by the oil spill.

5. Oysters

Oysters have long been associated with Gulf Coast cuisine, but oyster houses that have been open for generations are closing in the French Quarter as oystermen are forced to stay home.

Due to oil contamination, many oyster beds have already been shut down. And oystermen fear that proposed plans to pump freshwater into the Delta to help push back encroaching oil could throw off the precise balance of seawater and freshwater that allows oysters to grow.

And as the water warms, oyster larvae could be born right into the oil, poisoning another generation of oysters.

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