Seabird Rehabilitation

SANCCOB’s seabird rehabilitation centres provide a 24-hour rescue service for seabirds in need, treating approximately 2,000 seabirds annually during a non-crisis year. SANCCOB is recognised as world leaders in the field of seabird rehabilitation, owing to the large number of seabirds treated and the complexity of seabird responses.  

Reports of seabirds requiring assistance may come directly from the public or from management authorities based at seabird colonies. SANCCOB works closely with SANParks, CapeNature, City of Cape Town and Robben Island Museum to ensure that seabirds are monitored, and conservation interventions implemented, if needed. A well-developed first responder network strategically positioned along the coastline assists with rapid response for seabirds that require our help; this may include trauma-related injuries, emaciation, oil pollution, general poor condition or abandonment. First responders are trained in the safe capture of seabirds and the initial stabilisation prior to transport to SANCCOB’s seabird hospitals.  

Seabirds admitted to our hospitals receive a clinical examination and issued a treatment and rehabilitation plan based on the condition of the individual patient. Both seabird hospitals in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape of South Africa are well equipped with an admissions room, intensive care unit (ICU) for severely compromised seabirds, outdoor enclosures and swimming pools to accommodate seabirds that are progressing well through the rehabilitation process, a surgical theatre, oiled wash bay and post-mortem room.  

The rehabilitation process is largely dependent on the individual bird and its diagnosis; however, generally follows a specific feeding, swimming, medication and treatment schedule for each seabird patient. Depending on the nature of injury, or illness, birds usually spend between 4-16 weeks undergoing rehabilitation before being released back into the wild. During their rehabilitation, staff evaluate the birds weekly on their health, blood results, weight and the waterproofing of their feathers. Prior to release, each penguin receives an implanted transponder which is injected under their skin and is used for research and monitoring purposes post-release. African penguins that meet SANCCOB’s criteria are released weekly into an existing seabird colony, where our volunteers usually get the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labour and send rehabilitated seabirds back where they belong. 

The majority of seabirds admitted to SANCCOB are compromised and unfortunately, some do not respond to treatment and subsequently die. A post-mortem is conducted to gain an understanding of the cause of death, to advance disease-related studies and to gain understanding of causes of mortality in the wild.