Partnership ensures rescue of Gannets

by CapeNature

Yesterday at Bird Island, a Provincial Nature Reserve off the coast of Lambert’s Bay in the West Coast, four Cape Gannets were rescued from a certain death and taken to The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCOBB) in Tableview – after their oiled bodies were found by CapeNature official, Elbie Cloete on the island earlier this week, amid concerns that the bulk carrier, Ioannis NK, that recently sunk 98 nautical miles off Cape Columbine (on the West Coast) may be responsible for the oiling incident.

“At this stage it is difficult to prove if it is indeed an oiling incident as chronic oiling commonly occurs along our coastline, especially during the stormy winter months” says Vanessa Strauss, CEO of SANCCOB.

Strauss has confirmed that they receive numerous individual oiled African Penguins and Cape Gannets during this period from areas where there is no history of a recent oil spill. It is believed that chronic oiling is caused by vessels that illegally dump oil contaminated bilge water at sea.

Cloete explained that he immediately took the birds to SANCCOB as oil interferes with the normal alignment of their feathers, resulting in matting that impairs waterproofing.

A bird that is not waterproof will be exposed to the icy waters of the cold Atlantic Ocean and die from exposure. They therefore prefer to remain on land where they will eventually die of starvation. Oiled birds preen the affected feathers to remove the oil and thereby ingest some of the oil. Ingested oil is toxic and results in mouth and stomach ulceration. It also causes organ failure and breakdown of red blood cells when absorbed.

Strauss has confirmed that the birds were stabilised and that it will take about three days for them to be strong enough to endure the stressful washing and rinsing process. Then it will take another week for them to regain their natural water proofing. Once SANCCOBs veterinary team has deemed the birds fit for release, they will be taken back into the natural habitat.

The colony of Cape gannets at Lambert’s Bay is one of only six in the world (three in South Africa; three in Namibia).  It numbers 10 000 pairs and contributes 7% of the world’s population of this species.  Cape Gannets have ceased breeding at four former breeding localities.  At two of these they were displaced by expanding herds of Cape fur seals.

CapeNature therefore views it as crucial to maintain the colony at Lambert’s Bay to ensure the conservation of the species.  The Cape Gannet colony at Bird Island is the main attraction for tourists visiting Lambert’s Bay and contributes significantly to the local economic development of the town.


Elbie Cloete, CapeNature Conservation Manager, Bird Island on 082 455 5992

Vanessa Strauss, CEO of SANCOBB on 082 495 6339



Liesl Brink
Public Relations Officer
Tel: 021 659 3446  Mobile: 071 688 2649

Published in Care for Nature

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