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Juvenile Cape cormorants, hand-reared at SANCCOB after a mass abandonment and large scale rescue mission in January 2021 from Robben and Jutten islands, have been spotted all along the Western Cape coast since released.
Over 1,000 Cape cormorant chicks have successfully been hand-reared at our Cape Town centre in Table View, cared for by the dedicated SANCCOB staff with the help of hundreds of volunteers and are now being released in batches back into the wild. 335 cormorants remain at the centre and are in their final stages of rehabilitation. Weekly releases will continue to be carried out on Robben Island through the month of May, supported by the Two Oceans Aquarium, who transport birds to the Island.
Prior to release, SANCCOB ensures these birds are in optimal condition to re-enter the wild, which includes weight criteria, feather waterproofing, health checks and the individual marking of birds. Each bird is ringed with a metal band with an individual number. In addition, most birds are also ringed with more visible colour rings, also with individual numbering which allows them to be more easily spotted by the public. Thanks to these colour rings, there has been a number of resighting notifications of live and dead birds from as far as Saldanha Bay, north of Cape Town, to Struisbaai, east of Cape Agulhas.
According to Dr Katta Ludynia, SANCCOB’s Research Manager, this shows that the birds have integrated into the wild population and have joined other Cape cormorants following the fish stocks along our coast. Cape cormorants can travel large distances, following fish schools into bays and coastal areas to feed in large flocks that can often be seen from the coast. Being informed of sightings is hugely beneficial to SANCCOB’s post-release monitoring, especially when people can identify ring numbers with spotting scopes or binoculars and will allow us to assess the success of this conservation intervention. Bird resighting can be reported to SAFRING and SANCCOB at +27 21 557 6155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unfortunately, the first few months at sea are the most difficult for many seabirds, considering the relatively low fish availability in our waters. Both wild-reared and hand-reared birds have a comparatively high mortality rate in the first few months.
“As with most seabirds, young Cape cormorants are not taught by their parents how to find fish in the ocean, thus both SANCCOB’s hand-reared birds as well as wild birds reared by their parents are ‘thrown in the deep end’ when leaving their nest sites, or in this case the rehabilitation centre,” says Ludynia. However, cormorant parents sometimes still feed their young for a period after fledging to make sure they have enough reserves to survive in the wild. SANCCOB has therefore adopted a “soft release” approach where supplementary feeds are made available to the birds at the release site on Robben Island after they are set free, and birds often make use of it for several days before integrating into the wild population.
The entire operation over the past three months was supported by financial and in-kind donations from local and international individuals, corporates, small and medium enterprises, trusts and foundations, and international zoos and aquaria – thank you to all who have contributed to the conservation efforts of endangered Cape cormorants. Local volunteers have signed up daily to support the rehabilitation and provided the help needed to keep centre operations running smoothly.
Volunteer support is essential to assist with food preparation, cleaning stations and laundry; contact our Volunteer Coordinator on 076 682 5130 to sign up. 18 years and older only please and shifts are from 7am to 1pm and 1pm to 6pm daily.
Photos courtesy of Stacy Alcock and Leon-Niel Wauts.
BE PART OF THE NEXT RESCUE
Last winter, caring supporters like you helped us save 30 oiled penguins and their 4 chicks from Bird and St Croix Islands.
The birds were taken to our seabird centre in Cape St Francis, where trained staff and volunteers washed, fed and cared for them for 4-6 weeks, while they regained their strength and the natural waterproofing of their feathers.
The chicks, which were less than three weeks old and weighed only 500 grams, were hand-reared at SANCCOB. All 34 birds were successfully released back into the wild.
WHAT WE DO
SANCCOB saves seabirds
SANCCOB provides a 24/7 rescue service for sick and injured seabirds and abandoned chicks. We respond to oil spill disasters along the South African coastline.
SANCCOB is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of seabird rehabilitation. We treat 2500 injured, sick and oiled seabirds annually.
Our specialist chick rearing unit saves African penguin eggs and chicks that have been abandoned, for subsequent release back into the wild.
Oiled Wildlife Preparedness & Response
SANCCOB works with various stakeholders to ensure authorities take appropriate preparedness action to mitigate oil spill risks off the South African coastline and responds to oiled marine wildlife.
We offer various engaging lessons for children and adults, including tours of the facilities, presentations and encounters with our Ambassador penguins.
We offer 3 and 6 month internships for adults, as well as a zoo and aquarium keeper exchange programme and veterinary experience courses.
Ongoing research increases our understanding of seabird species’ behaviour, diseases and other factors that impact on their long-term survival.
Penguin & Seabird Rangers
SANCCOB employs conservation staff in colonies in the Western Cape that are under the protection of conservation authorities to monitor seabirds, nests and habitats, and support critical research.
HOW TO HELP
FOUND A BIRD?
Call us any time of the day or night. SANCCOB is a 24-hour Seabird Rescue Centre and will respond to all seabirds in distress, including African Penguins, Cape Gannets, Terns, Cormorants, Seagulls, Oystercatchers, Albatrosses, Petrels, Pelicans and other marine birds.
Tel: +27 (0)21 557 6155
Tel: +27 (0) 78 638 3731 (after hours & weekends)
Tel: +27 (0)41 583 1830
Tel: +27 (0) 64 019 8936 (after hours & weekends)
Depending on the nature of the injury and the location of the seabird, we will dispatch one of our own Rescue Units, offer stabilisation advice or put you in contact with the nearest organisation that can assist.
What to do when you find an injured/sick/oiled seabird:
- Please approach any seabird with care – some, such as Cape Gannets and African Penguins, have sharp beaks.
- Have with you a towel or blanket and wear protection over your hands and eyes.
- Throw the towel or blanket over the bird to catch it, ensuring that the bird is able to breathe.
- Place the bird in a large box if you have one, after first ensuring that there are holes for air.
- Keep the bird in a warm quiet place until help arrives