Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Workshop and Handbook

 This project, led by ZooMarine, brought together European marine wildlife responders from all coastal Member States, Norway and Iceland, to discuss oiled wildlife assistance at a European level. In addition to sharing methodologies and approaches to cleaning and rehabilitating oiled birds and other animals, the group worked to develop a set of guidelines on the collection, cleaning, rehabilitation of oiled sea animals as an integrated part of an oil spill response.

As part of the project, a Workshop on Best Practices for Oiled Wildlife Cleaning and Rehabilitation took place on 21-23 October 2006 in Albufeira, Portugal. Workshop participants explored the principles of cleaning and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife in an effort to identify best practices that could be made available to wildlife responders throughout Europe.

The workshop programme included a series of lectures, sub-group discussions and a tabletop exercise. Discussions focused on defining animal welfare principles and incorporating those principles into the practice of oiled wildlife rehabilitation, while the tabletop exercise took the group through the decision making process of a typical oiled wildlife rehab centre in the early days of an oil spill incident. A total of 41 participants attended the workshop including regulators, scientists and rehabilitators.

The Handbook for the Rehabilitation of Oiled Birds, an important product of the workshop, was published in May 2007. It provides guidance for wildlife rehabilitators and governmental authorities on best practices with regards to the rescue, cleaning and rehabilitation of oiled birds, especially during large incidents.

Deliberately restricted to less than 30 pages, the Handbook provides principles rather than detailed methodologies on a number of important issues, including search and rescue, transportation, facility setup, health and safety, involvement of volunteers, compensation of costs and animal welfare issues. Useful contact addresses and references to other sources of information are also provided.


  • ZooMarine (lead)
  • Sea Alarm
  • International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
  • Istituto centrale per la ricerca scientifica e tecnologica applicata al mare (ICRAM)


February 2006 - February 2007

Specific objectives:

  • Work towards a common view of animal welfare in relation to oiled bird cleaning and rehabilitation;
  • Initiate a process to increase professionalism amongst expert European groups to improve future oiled wildlife response;
  • Create closer bonds and collegiality within the core group of European expert organisations in the field of cleaning and rehabilitation of oiled animals to enhance future effective cooperation;
  • Identify a series of structural activities by which oiled wildlife responders exchange ideas and improve methodologies;
  • Create professional contacts between European groups, globally operating oiled wildlife responders and key groups in the field of oil spill response;
  • Develop a set of best practice guidelines covering principles, methodologies and cooperative efforts, based on the workshop results, for cleaning and rehabilitating oiled wildlife under the conditions of an oil spill incident.


  • Development of a shared understanding and awareness of the principles, methodologies and approaches used for cleaning and rehabilitating wildlife under the conditions of an oiled wildlife incident;
  • Increased capacity of marine wildlife responders in Europe to deal effectively with cleaning and rehabilitation of oiled birds and other animals;
  • Increased structural networking and sharing of experiences between European marine wildlife responders, particularly NGOs, facilitating cooperation and mutual assistance in the case of an oiled wildlife incident;
  • A better basis for coordinated and concerted activities of volunteer wildlife rehabilitation groups under the circumstances of a future oil spill response in Europe.