The rarest of the oiled birds rescued and cared for by us was the first to be released back to the sea on Tuesday 23.

Arctic skuna © RSPCAAn Arctic skua was rescued from Exmouth beach after he got covered in a gluey substance called polyisobutene or PIB. The substance renders seabirds helpless, restricting their mobility and preventing them from feeding as the chemical coats their plumage.

He was one of more than 200 birds taken to our West Hatch Wildlife Centre in Taunton, Somerset for rehabilitation and care. The Arctic skuna recovered so quickly that he was deemed fit enough to be returned to the wild, at West Bay in Dorset.

Dave McDonald, who volunteers at West Hatch to help in emergencies such as this one, was at the release. He said:

“He was raring to go – just couldn’t wait to spread his wings and get back out to where he belongs.

“As soon as we opened the box used to transport him he was away flying directly out to sea and we just lost sight of him. We all love seeing that – a proper happy ending.

“It’s unusual to see an Arctic skua caught up in these spills and this was the only one. They are a bit more skittish than the other birds we have had in – mainly guillemots and razorbills – so even more important for their survival than usual to get them back to the wild quickly.”

It is estimated that more than 1,000 birds were washed up along the south coastline covered in PIB since 9 April. Our inspectors rescued as many of the birds as they could, but sadly many more were found on the beaches already dead.

Centre manager Peter Venn said:

“This is a great early result after another two weeks of seeing so many badly affected birds come through our doors.”

It was the second time in just two months that a spill of the lethal substance had caused such a major problem and we have joined the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts in calling for the ban on the discharge of PIB at sea.

All three of us have written to the government urging it to lead an international reclassification of the man-made substance which is used in the manufacture of a range of products from lubricants to football bladders, chewing gum to cling film.

We can’t do it without you

We can only rescue and rehabilitate animals like this with your help.

  • To help the RSPCA rescue animals like these, please text HELP to 78866 to give £3. Text costs £3 plus one standard network rate message.
  • Find out more about our wildlife centres and read more about our wildlife rehabilitation work.