The Bank Cormorant is listed as Endangered on the IUCN red list and currently there are only about 150 breeding pairs left in South Africa (DEA unpubl. Data 2016). More than 80% of the world’s population breeds on one single island in Namibia, Mercury Island. Current threats to the species include lack of food because in South Africa, Bank Cormorants feed almost exclusively on Rock Lobster, which has recently been listed as Red on the WWF SASSI list. Other threats include storms and heat events that reduce breeding success and human disturbance at breeding sites.
SANCCOB has been involved with a variety of projects to save the Bank Cormorant from extinction over the last decade. A hand-rearing project was initiated but the species has proven to be difficult as birds imprint on humans and are difficult to release back into the wild. However, SANCCOB’s strength in this regard will be its experience in hand-rearing seabirds, which will be vital in the project’s success.
SANCCOB is also leading the Bank Cormorant Working Group, a group of NGOs, researchers, government institutions and conservation authorities, working on a Species Action Plan to align the efforts to save the species from extinction.
The only two colonies in South Africa with more than 50 breeding pairs of Bank Cormorants are Robben Island and Stony Point in Betty’s Bay.
In both colonies, SANCCOB is funding seabird and penguin rangers that assist the managing conservation authorities with rescuing injured and weak birds, monitor breeding success and try to reduce human disturbance through educating the public and local communities. These efforts are not limited to the African Penguin but extend to threatened and important species such as the Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher and others.
SANCCOB’s Rehabilitation and Veterinary teams also treats injured Bank Cormorants but due to the low numbers in South Africa, only few birds are admitted to SANCCOB annually.
SANCCOB’s Research Department conducts disease research involving Bank Cormorants and collaborates closely with researchers in Namibia on how best to protect the species in the main breeding colonies.