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Oil spill's role in animal deaths unclear, officials say

May 18, 2010 |  5:08 pm

Seaturtle

Federal officials say they don't know whether a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico killed 189 sea turtles, birds and other animals found dead since it started.

The total includes 154 sea turtles, primarily the endangered Kemp's ridley variety, plus 12 dolphins and 23 birds.

But in a phone news conference Tuesday, officials said they don't know if any of the animals were killed by oil or the chemicals being used to disperse it.

Barbara Schroeder of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries program says necropsies have not detected oil in the bodies of the sea turtles.

Acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Rowan Gould says the spill's effects could be felt for decades and may never be fully known because so many affected creatures live far offshore.

RELATED ECOLOGY NEWS:
U.N. report warns about the importance of biological diversity protection measures
Shave pets, help the Gulf oil spill recovery effort: Group turns fur into mats that help contain oil

-- John Fleshler, Associated Press

Photo: Research assistant Megan Broadway holds an injured sea turtle at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., on May 1. The institute is involved in the effort to help animals affected by the oil spill. Credit: Dave Martin / Associated Press

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