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Bird Tragedy

Posted by mhudema on May 2, 2008

PM wades into dead duck controversy

Harper says tailings pond tragedy hurts image, First Nations chief wants inquiry

By KEVIN CRUSH


A female Mallard duck is gets it’s bill cleaned of oil at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton on Wednesday April 30, 2008 after being transported from the Syncrude tailings pond at their tar sands site near Fort McMurray, Alta. (Jordan Verlage/SUN MEDIA)

A third duck rescued from a Syncrude tailings pond has died.

That leaves just two surviving ducks of the roughly 500 that died earlier this week when they landed in the toxic pond north of Fort McMurray.

And one of the two remaining survivors is in poor condition and may not have long to live.

“The one does (have a chance). The other one, we’re not holding out much hope for, unfortunately,” said Kim Blomme, founder of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton.

Five ducks were initially recovered from the pond. Three later died, including one on Wednesday night, said Blomme.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was in Edmonton yesterday for the official opening of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, said the tragedy hurts Canada’s environmental image.

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He added that federal officials are investigating.

Greenpeace activist Mike Hudema welcomed the investigation of the companies involved, but said the government also needs to look at its own environmental policies, such as the lack of monitoring at oilsands sites.

“This is just the tip of the tarsands iceberg and just one of a whole host of problems associated with this development.”

Imperial Oil, which has a 25% stake in Syncrude, says a warning system meant to keep the birds away wasn’t operating at the time.

Meanwhile, Chief Vern Janvier of the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation said his people were “upset and alarmed” at the government’s negligence in protecting the environment. He claims it’s not the first time. Community members and elders have previously witnessed the deaths of birds and other species at oilsands tailings ponds, he said.

Janvier is calling for a federal inquiry on how to protect migratory birds, fish stocks and species at risk.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach downplayed the deaths, pointing out that wind turbines kill 30,000 birds annually.

That number seems a little overblown, says the president of Calgary-based Alberta Wind Energy Corporation, which focuses on building wind turbines in southern Alberta.

“Studies have indicated that (each of the province’s) turbines kill 1.3 birds annually. I don’t think there are 30,000 wind turbines in the world,” said Stewart Duncan.

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