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Since Tuesday, 12 January 2021, SANCCOB’s Cape Town centre in Table View has admitted 1,647 Cape cormorant chicks, rescued from Robben Island after being abandoned by their parents. A robust rescue operation was executed by Robben Island Museum (RIM), SANCCOB, Two Oceans Aquarium and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) to retrieve and safely transport the chicks to SANCCOB’s seabird hospital.
This operation is the second largest seabird rescue in the Western Cape since the MV Treasure oil spill in 2000, and our staff and volunteers at SANCCOB are working round the clock to hydrate, feed and care for the chicks.
Visit our WISH LIST HERE to see items that members of the public can assist with.
SANCCOB’s research department suspects that the lack of food could be the main reason for the abandonment and investigations are still underway. “Cape cormorants feed mainly on anchovy (and to a smaller extent on sardines) and these small pelagic fish species are at very low levels at the moment. We are seeing dramatic population declines in all seabird species that rely on these fish species; the African penguin, the Cape gannet and Cape cormorant, are all listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and lack of sufficient food is the primary factor for the most recent declines observed,” explains Dr Katta Ludynia, SANCCOB’s Research Manager.
Due to the hot weather over the last two days it was first suspected that adult birds flew further out to sea to cool down but this is not likely as they would have been seen rafting close to the Island and eventually return to their chicks when the temperature dropped but the adults did not come back.
Ludynia says, “Cape cormorants are summer breeders; their main breeding season is between October and December and they breed along the coast of South Africa and Namibia (into Angola), thus should be used to heat. There has been a recent Masters study on the behaviour of Cape cormorants and other cormorant species in heat and they did not observe abandonment at high temperatures comparable (or even higher) than what we had in recent days.”
SANCCOB and RIM’s Penguin and seabird ranger monitors the birds on the Island – amongst other duties – and immediately alerted Robben Island Museum’s Environmental Unit and SANCCOB when adult cormorants had not returned to their chicks.
“This is an unusual occurrence; an anomaly that both RIM and SANCCOB are studying and working towards understanding. Annually, 164 different bird species (including the endangered African Penguin) breed on the Island and this further emphasises the need for responsible tourism as a Marine Protected Area and World Heritage Site; and for the public to be environmentally conscious, ”says Mr Thabo Seshoka, Robben Island Museum’s Head of Heritage and Research.
We are focusing our resources on providing the veterinary and rehabilitative care necessary save every Cape cormorant chick until eventual release in two to three months, while simultaneously rehabilitating existing seabird patients.
Please consider assisting our organisation during this critical time. Volunteer support and monetary donations to purchase fish and medical supplies are most needed. To volunteer your time please call 076 682 5130 and to assist with funding email Ronnis Daniels at Ronnis@sanccob.co.za.
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