With support from CapeNature and their staff on Bird Island, Lambert’s Bay, SANCCOB’s Veterinarian and Researcher, Dr. Nola Parsons, and Venessa Strauss, Conservation Director, collected the last batch of samples from Cape Gannets needed for the Seabird Health Survey project. Twenty gannets that were sitting on the edge of the breeding colony were selected, and blood, guano, and trachea swabs samples were collected and brought back to SANCCOB for processing. There are still a few samples outstanding from cormorants in the wild, but Dr. Parsons will be looking at the results of the sampling and testing from a range of wild seabirds from all the southern African breeding colonies from the past 3 years in the next few months. With the support and expertise from experts around the world, Dr. Parsons will eventually produce a final report mid-2013.
The Seabird Health Survey has been made possible by the generous support from the Mystic Aquarium in Georgia, and the Sea Research Foundation at the Mystic Aquarium, USA. Disease at present is an unknown factor in the wild African penguin and seabird populations. The aim of this study was to establish the presence of any disease agents and to quantify the risk posed to the African penguin and other seabirds by these diseases, as well as to establish baseline values for future reference.
With the increased conservation status of the African penguins (reclassification from Vulnerable to Endangered (IUCN Red Data List, June 2010), the ultimate aim of studying seabird diseases is the conservation of declining seabird populations, and to monitor the health of the marine ecosystem in relation to local (e.g. availability of food) and global (e.g. global climate change) impact factors.