HOUSTON -- On day 100 of the disaster in the Gulf, 16 brown pelicans rescued from the oil-drenched Louisiana coastline arrived onboard a U.S. Coast Guard plane at the Arnasas County Airport in Rockport.
One by one, their crates were loaded onto trailers and trucks for the short drive to Goose Island State Park. After weeks of rehabilitation, they were being released back into the wild.
"The release of each one of these birds individually represents success," said Rhonda Murgatroyd.
Murgatroyd runs a Seabrook company called Wildlife Response Services, LLC. She's been tapped to oversee BP'S wildlife response efforts in the wake of the spill.
"The spill obviously has been a significant event for the Gulf of Mexico," said Murgatroyd. "I personally was expecting a much larger impact to wildlife."
With unknown amounts of oil still lurking beneath the surface, it's unclear whether the impact will become larger. Nearly 1,500 oiled birds have been rescued from the spill zone, according to Unified Command, with roughly one-third of them already rehabbed and released in Texas and Florida.
The question remains, though, on the number of birds that did not survive the spill. Currently, the death count is approaching 1,300 and will likely climb higher.
"I don't think there's ever been anything of this magnitude to compare it to," said Dr. Luis Padilla, a staff veterinarian at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., helping with the response in the Gulf.
He said while nature is resilient, it will take some time before everything returns back to normal.