Oil Spill—What It Did to Animals
THE spill’s toll on wildlife in its first few months was tragic. A special dispatch from Alaska to The New York Times stated: “Casualties are evident from islands close to Valdez, where thousands of seals are now giving birth to pups on contaminated beaches, to the far reaches of Katmai National Park on the Alaska peninsula 300 miles [500 km] southwest of here, where bald eagles, brown bears and sea lions struggle with a toxic habitat. The ecological toll of the spill thus far includes more than 20,000 birds of 30 species, 700 Pacific sea otters and 20 bald eagles.” The actual numbers may be five times higher, according to biologists making the tally. Most of the victims are never found.
In Katmai National Park is the largest concentration of brown bears in the world. Officials worry about these huge animals, some ten feet [3 m] tall and weighing 1,200 pounds [540 kg]. They have been prowling the beaches eating oiled birds and fish. “What will happen to these animals as the oil gets into their food chain?” officials wonder. Eagles feeding on the dead fish and birds are dying. They expect deaths among the bears “as the toxic oil accumulates in their systems.”
Similar worries are felt in Kenai Fjords National Park, where 90 percent of its 240-mile [390 km] east coast has been hit by oil. A state biologist assigned there said: “Right now I’m still finding dead sea otters on the beach. Bald eagles feed on them, so I’m also finding bald eagles. Here I am a scientist with a Ph.D. and as I watch these oiled birds trying to take off I start to cry.”
Hundreds of others may cry and thousands feel like crying. People who care labor to clean the oil off birds and otters, many of which die anyway. It is heartbreaking work for those concerned with the preservation of wildlife.
The number of sea otters in Prince William Sound was estimated at from 10,000 to 15,000. One biologist feared that they faced total extinction. Another agreed that they “will be totally wiped out.” These estimates may have proved to be overly pessimistic; other estimates of one third lost are bad enough. In some places untouched by oil, the otters are plentiful; in oil-polluted areas, few are seen. The truth is, no one knows how many thousands perished. When sea otters die in an oil spill, they sink to the bottom. No count is possible, only estimates based on decreased sightings.
Most people are moved by the death of thousands of birds and animals in oil spills but seldom think of the small and the microscopic victims numbering in the millions, even millions of millions. They too are important and are not forgotten by their Creator. “How many your works are, O Jehovah! All of them in wisdom you have made. The earth is full of your productions. As for this sea so great and wide, there there are moving things without number, living creatures, small as well as great.”—Psalm 104:24, 25.
The oily sludge dispersed into the water eventually sinks to the bottom. There it poisons microorganisms, zooplankton, the beginning of the food chain for a rich variety of wildlife. Thence the toxic chemicals ascend the ladder of life, ultimately getting into man himself.
Man is not above it all. He is a part of it, and he has responsibility toward it. It is a responsibility given him by God, his Creator. “I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals,” Jehovah told the first man. Man was made in the image of God, with the attributes of God—wisdom, power, justice, love. These qualities equipped him to exercise loving dominion over the earth and its plants and animals. The earth and its fullness were put in his charge, not to be exploited and ruined, but to be cared for and guarded. (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15, Today’s English Version) Jehovah God has concern for his creation. Do we? We should, for he declares that he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:18.
[Box/Picture on page 10]
God’s Concern for Animals
God is concerned:
“Sparrows . . . not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.”—Matthew 10:29.
He requires consideration:
‘Six days work, on the seventh desist, that your bull and your ass may rest.’—Exodus 23:12.
“You must not muzzle a bull while it is threshing.”—Deuteronomy 25:4.
“You must not plow with a bull and an ass together.”—Deuteronomy 22:10.
“Should you see the ass of someone who hates you lying down under its load, . . . you are without fail to get it loose.”—Exodus 23:5.
“Who of you, if his . . . bull falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”—Luke 14:5.
He provides for survival of the species:
“In case a bird’s nest happens to be before you . . . , you must not take the mother along with the offspring.”—Deuteronomy 22:6.
He provides food:
“The sabbath of the land must serve you people for food, . . . and for the wild beast that is in your land.”—Leviticus 25:6, 7.
“You open your hand—they get satisfied with good things.”—Psalm 104:28.
“Observe intently the birds of heaven, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them.”—Matthew 6:26.
He provides wisdom needed for survival:
“They are instinctively wise: . . . In the summer they prepare their food.”—Proverbs 30:24, 25.
He requires showing appropriate respect:
“You must not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”—Exodus 23:19.
Anchorage Times photo/Al Grillo
[Pictures on page 8, 9]
Far left: Harbor seal pup, three days old
Left: Yellow-billed loon
Anchorage Times photo/Al Grillo
Below: Sea lions
Prince William Sound