A wrecked ship is threatening to cause an environmental disaster on an island which is home to endangered penguins, conservationists warned yesterday.
The vessel has grounded on Nightingale Island in the South Atlantic, causing an oil slick around the island which is home to nearly half the world's population of northern rockhopper penguins.
Some 1,500 tonnes of heavy crude oil from the MS Olivia, which was shipping soya beans between Rio de Janeiro and Singapore, is leaking into the sea.
According to the RSPB, oil now surrounds Nightingale Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha UK overseas territory, and extends into a slick eight miles offshore, threatening the endangered penguins and the economically important rock lobster fishery.
Hundreds of penguins have already been seen coming ashore covered in oil, the wildlife charity said. The shipwreck may also lead to any rats onboard colonising the island and posing a huge risk to the native seabird populations – whose chicks and eggs could be eaten by the invasive rodents.
The Tristan da Cunha islands, in particular Nightingale and its neighbour Middle Island, are home to millions of nesting seabirds.