Picture: Supplied.
Picture: Supplied.
Red-tailed Tropicbird. Picture: Supplied.
Red-tailed Tropicbird. Picture: Supplied.
Picture: Supplied.
Picture: Supplied.
Picture: Supplied.
Picture: Supplied.

Calitzdorp - The Cango Wildlife Ranch was in for a rare treat when a unique rescue bird was brought in to their facilities recently - the Red-tailed Tropicbird.

The exotic seabird, discovered in the semi-desert town of Calitzdorp, was brought to the ranch after being rescued by a good Samaritan. 

This good Samaritan, a young resident of Calitzdorp, saved the bird after noticed a group of peers circling around the rare sighting. 

The young man then took the bird to the one person he knew would be able to help, Karen Whitely, resident and animal welfare activist. 

Whitely then reported him being found and delivered him at Cango Wildlife Ranch, to a baffled and intrigued Cango Wildlife Ranch team.

The bird, whose gender cannot be ascertained (as there is no way other than DNA testing of identifying gender) was swiftly taken to the ranch's on-call veterinary for an examination which thankfully didn’t indicate any injuries or breakages.

The bird was then weighed, coming in at 550g, which is a little skinny, but not far off from its 600g-800g range, and then following sound advice from a specialist in the marine bird field, was fed squid, which he has taken to. 

Red-tailed Tropicbird native range Picture: Supplied

The team reported that the tropicbird was becoming more energetic and "talkative" and has reported him to SANCCOB (The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) and has also applied for the required permits to transport him to their facility in Cape Town to ensure in this exotic and fly-loving bird’s long-term well-being.

The bird, aptly named Karoolus, is temporarily safely residing in Cango Wildlife Ranch’s Animal Care Centre until the trip to Cape Town. 

Commenting on the bird's stay at the ranch Narinda Beukes, the zoological director, said: “Though we don’t really have the means to house a seabird in the Klein Karoo, we are doing everything in our power to make sure he has the best care whilst with us”.

The ranch added that the hope was to set him up for a release back into the wild which means that all human contact is being kept to a minimum. 

The Red-tailed Tropicbird is an exotic seabird that breeds on remote tropical islands as far east as the Hawaiian Islands, and also on the south-west Australian coast. 

Outside of breeding season, they may travel as far north as Japan and as far south as New Zealand. They are also known to breed on the coast of Mozambique.

South Africans very rarely come across these "air dancers", with the last believed sighting being four years ago near Port Elizabeth.

To help fund Cango Wildlife Ranch's trip, please contact Carmen, the non-profit Cheetah Preservation Foundation manager on [email protected]