The Cape cormorant chicks found on the island before being rescued was unusual because of the high number of nests. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
The Cape cormorant chicks found on the island before being rescued was unusual because of the high number of nests. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Abandoned Cape cormorant chicks are recovering

By Sukaina Ishmail Time of article published Jan 18, 2021

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Cape Town - The abandonment of 1 700 endangered Cape cormorant chicks on Robben Island indicates a major cause of climate change, however the incident is still being investigated.

The Cape cormorant chicks found on the island before being rescued was unusual because of the high number of nests.

A complete veterinary assessment has been conducted on each chick since they were collected last week. A small number of birds could not be saved in time, however the nearly1 700 chicks weighing between 150g to 600g are currently being cared for.

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) Leiden Conservation Fellow Lauren Waller said: “The abandonment of so many nests with chicks of these sizes is considered unusual by Robben Island Management as it has not been seen on this scale before and is under investigation. No abandonment has been reported from any of the other Cape cormorant breeding colonies.”

She said climate change will cause extremes in weather conditions, including extreme heat. Those species that breed in summer will probably experience an increase in occurrences of heat stress. Adults breeding out in the open will then abandon eggs and chicks if the heat becomes too much for them to cope with.

Sanccob’s Research Manager Katta Ludynia said: “We are seeing dramatic population declines in all seabird species that rely on these fish species: the African penguin, the Cape gannet and Cape cormorant are all listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and lack of sufficient food is the primary factor for the most recent declines observed.”

Robben Island Museum’s Head of Heritage and Research Thabo Seshoka said: “The abandonment is unusual. Quick intervention helped ensure the birds a best chance of survival. It’s an anomaly that both Rim (Robben Island Museum) and Sanccob are studying. Annually, 186 bird species breed on the Island, which underpins the need for responsible tourism on the island.”

The chicks will be released by Sanccob in two to three months depending on how they respond to the treatment.

Sanccob needs help with the purchase of fish, medication and veterinary supplies from the public to ensure proper survival of the chicks. They will also need to build a temporary enclosure on site to accommodate the birds as they grow and begin to fly.

Volunteer support is urgently required for the months ahead. Shifts are 6am to 12pm and 12pm to 6pm.

Cape Argus

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