Coreen Coetzee found employment, and a new way of life, through working for CapeNature as a gannet monitor on Bird Island, 100m off the coast of Lambert’s Bay. She has since been promoted to a supervisory position and is passionate about her job and conservation.
She explains that she was born and bred in Lambert’s Bay and worked in various jobs – from child-minding and pizza making to coordinating trips for the West Coast Route – before getting her matric at the age of 37 in 2011 and securing a five-month contract with CapeNature as a EPWP participant.
While that contract was not immediately renewed, she was delighted when a monitor position opened up again some months later and she got the opportunity to resume her work for CapeNature.
Now she has taken on more of a supervisory role at the reserve and assists with issuing of permits for day visitors and looking after the curio shop. She also coordinates National Marine week at the island in October.
She explains, “Gannets live on the sea and only come to the land to breed. During the breeding season we count and do an estimate of the birds on the island.”
It is important that accurate data is gathered, and the monitors also keep records of the colony and compare them to previous years. “In addition, four times a year, aerial photos are taken and we compare the photos with our estimates. We also record chicks that leave the colony daily. If we see any strange birds, these must be recorded too.
Bird Island is also home to a colony of Cape fur seals, who pose a danger to the gannets, as they target the chicks when they swim out, so part of a monitor’s job is to patrol the seal colony twice a day and keep them away from the gannets.
“I’m very proud to be part of Bird Island as it’s just not a job for me, it’s a part of me. It’s important that the community know about their heritage.”