These birds were victims of a previous oil spill in Athlone.

Athlone training event this weekend on helping wildlife after oil spills

A free one-day event taking place in Athlone this weekend will help train members of the public on how to best help wildlife in the event of an oil spill.

The training is being provided by Pauline Beades of the Limerick-based Oiled Wildlife Response Network, and it's taking place in Athlone Civic Centre from 10am to 4pm this Saturday, May 21.

Speaking to the Westmeath Independent, Pauline said the event would be suited to "anybody who's willing to get out there and get their hands dirty by volunteering and helping wildlife."

She said the Oiled Wildlife Response Network, which was formally established in 2015, had largely focused on coastal areas to date but had received a number of requests to hold an event in the Midlands.

"When there are major oil spills, nine times of ten they are marine events and one of the biggest species to be impacted are birds that live out at sea for long periods at a time.

"But there have also been quite a lot of smaller spills on inland lakeways and waterways. That's been a learning curve for us as much as anything else.

"A lot of (the impacted) birds would be waders who are nearly impossible to catch even when oiled, but you get a lot of swans, geese, bigger birds.

"Animals do get badly impacted by oil. From the point of view of losing their waterproofing, they can become very hypothermic. They can become dehydrated, because they become obsessed with trying to clean their feathers.

"They can suffer from starvation, and of course then they can ingest a lot of toxins from the oil which can ultimately result in their death."

She said the Oiled Wildlife Response Network was involved in the aftermath of a major oil spill in Rotterdam, where all of the victims it dealt with were swans.

"There was over 500 swans rehabilitated from that particular spill," she said. "We felt it was now time to approach the inland waterways and see how we can help in that area as well.

"We are keen to get people trained up to have some idea as to how to respond to these animals, because the quicker they're dealt with the better chance of survival they have."

The purpose of the event in Athlone is to train volunteers to reach the basic oiled wildlife responder level under the EUROWA (European Oiled Wildlife Assistance) emergency response standards.

"We're not going to be teaching people how to wash birds, because that's quite a complicated process, but what we will be teaching people is how to be the most effective in those first couple of days when oiled wildlife are spotted and can be captured," explained Pauline.

She said that in addition to those who may already be involved in helping wildlife, waterways stakeholders could also benefit from the training.

"County councils, and clean-up people, focus on cleaning up the oil after a spill. But the animals in themselves are a pollutant," she said.

"They need to be picked up and taken care of as quickly as possible because otherwise they're carrying the oil further into the environment, and plus you have dead animals which is a sad aspect of it too."

Free registration for the training event is through the Eventbrite website, and more information is available by emailing: