After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010 and dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists recovered the bodies of 3,000 birds who were killed by the spill. But now, new research says that the number may be much higher -- over 250 times higher, in fact.
"Part of the reason they discovered so few carcasses is because the oceanographic currents for the most part moved them away," Jeffrey Short, a marine chemist and a co-author of the studies, told the New York Times.
A team of scientists gathered data to estimate the total damage on bird populations caused by the spill and came up with a number of about 800,000. The spill -- considered the worst in the history of the petroleum industry -- was attributed to a series of cost-cutting decisions in the construction of the rig, along with "systemic" root causes in BP's infrastructure in the Gulf.
Melanie Driscoll, an ornithologist with the Audubon Society, said "this is a really big number, and it's still too small," adding that the survey didn't take into account marsh birds.
Despite the staggering toll on wildlife, rescuers have worked tirelessly to rehabilitate and release animals since the spill. Some, like the rescuers in the video below, have combed through the oil for birds one by one, taking incredible care to clean them by hand.