Cape St Francis volunteers and staff from left: Jeanette Muller, Penny Brown, Jane Coultas, Rhiannon Gill, Adele Cummings, Elaine Lester, Karin Fuchs and Eljoren Goeda, with Yvette Harrison kneeling.

Cape St Francis Centre closes

The Board of Directors of the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds had to make a difficult but necessary decision to close the Cape St Francis (CSF) Centre and operate from our Port Elizabeth Centre only, in the Eastern Cape. It was with sadness that we shared this news and it was certainly not an easy conclusion to reach since the Cape St Francis and Jeffrey’s Bay communities have participated in penguin rehabilitation for the past 30 years.

We are deeply mindful of the dedication of CSF’s stalwart volunteers, who have committed their unconditional support in respect of hours of hard work and championing of our cause to uphold SANCCOB’s legacy. SANCCOB CSF has been a second home to some of its volunteers, some having been involved in seabird rescue and rehabilitation for decades. A special note of thanks is extended to Jane Coultas – daughter of SANCCOB founder, Althea Westphal – who is a local CSF volunteer and has been involved since the very beginning. That’s 50 years of dedication and support!

We commend the staff, more specifically, Eljoren Goeda for all his hard work in the last years and Zamokuhle Lazola – our newest staff member. Their tireless dedication to the birds and upholding SANCCOB’s legacy in the area has been commendable. Our thoughts also go out to previous Centre manager, Wilna Wilkinson, whose time with SANCCOB was cut short, when she lost her life in a car accident. Her dedication is remembered by all who knew and loved her.

We want to express our gratitude to all volunteers, the First Responders from both CSF and Jeffrey’s Bay; and community members including many local companies, who have supported SANCCOB in many ways over the years. Dr Nerine Botha, a local veterinarian, has been instrumental to our work by dedicating her specialised service to the CSF centre’s birds and we are grateful for her loyal support. As we continue our conservation efforts going forward, we will remain in awe of the sheer devotion of those in the surrounds of the Cape St Francis facility, all who have raised funds for SANCCOB, rescued, washed, rehabilitated, fed and saved seabirds.

Both Eastern Cape centres have had additional tasks to fulfil. Thank you to the PE staff and volunteers who built and prepared pens and pools to accommodate the CSF birds. All CSF Centre’s birds, permanent as well as wild seabirds undergoing rehabilitation, were transported to SANCCOB PE on Monday, 8 October. They have settled in well thanks to the help of the CSF volunteers and staff, who made frequent trips to PE.

A huge thank you is due to our staff, Eljoren Goeda and Rhiannon Gill, who put in strenuous hours to dismantle and pack up centre contents in the last phase of closure. A special “thank you” to all volunteers for assisting to the clean-up, pack, and transport birds and centre contents to PE. A grateful word of thanks is extended to Bruce Coultas who helped our staff members with all the physically demanding work, and driving back and forth to PE to transport all the heavy items.

While SANCCOB will no longer operate in the CSF area, there will always be First Responders and stabilisers supported by us along this pristine part of the coastline. A few First Responders in the local vicinity have already been recruited and trained – the first of which were our CSF volunteers, who will continue to support SANCCOB, by being the first to respond to seabirds in distress before admission to the PE centre. If anyone would like to join our First Responder team, please don’t hesitate to contact us.