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New Zealand Oil Spill Threatening Birds (VIDEO)

New Zealand Oil Spill Tauranga Beach Rena Reef

First Posted: 10/11/11 04:22 PM ET Updated: 12/11/11 05:12 AM ET

The leaking oil from a ship that hit a reef off the coast of New Zealand last week has started to wash up on shore, according to the Associated Press.

Fist-sized clumps have begun dotting the beaches near Mount Maunganui in northern New Zealand. The beaches have been closed to human swimmers, but the spill has already taken a toll on local wildlife.

According to the AP video below, a wildlife response center has been set up to clean oiled birds.

The Associated Press reports, "environmental officials said 53 birds were found dead and 17 were getting emergency treatment to remove oil from their feathers."

The Liberian-flagged Rena, which ran aground last Wednesday, has been leaking oil and diesel fuel ever since. The Maritime New Zealand agency believes the ship contains "about 1,700 metric tons of oil and 200 tons of diesel on board." Around 390 tons of it have already leaked into the Bay of Plenty, according to the Associated Press.

Rough seas have prevented crews from finishing the job of pumping oil from the foundering vessel.

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Filed by James Gerken  |