Conservation Problem

The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), an IUCN member is working to save hundreds of seabirds from a chronic oil spill in Table Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. The oil slick is drifting through one of the main feeding grounds for seabirds from Robben Island and the West Coast National Park – has endangered many seabirds including 254 that were rescued and brought to SANCCOB for rehabilitation which were mostly African Penguins. Most of the birds affected in the SELI 1 oil spill are breeding adults and are important to the survival of the species, The majority of the oiled African penguins originate from Robben Island colony, one of only 7 African penguin breeding colonies. There are approximately 1,500 breeding pairs on Robben Island; the total number of birds affected by the spill translates into almost 10% of the population. If these birds cannot breed it not only threatens the colony but the whole species.


Project Activities

The overall activity is rehabilitation for release back into the wild. Rehabilitation consists of 5 steps. First there is search and rescue where SANCCOB working together with the University of Cape Town and conservation agencies collect affected birds from the breeding colonies. Second is stabilisation whereby birds are admitted to SANCCOB for the 2-3 days. Next begins the washing and rinsing to remove all oil. Fourthly, birds spend 2-3 weeks rehydrating, feeding and swimming under regular assessment. Finally birds are released if they reach a minimum weight, pass certain blood tests and their feathers recover 100% of their waterproofing quality. Some birds have already been rehabilitated and released.


See Sanccob personnel in action!


Project Outcomes

To release the birds back into the wild where they will be able to return to their colonies and breed again, continuing to contribute towards the wild population. Further, extra personnel in the region will benefit from SANCCOB’s training efforts, generating a more robust response resource for future emergencies, most notably an integrated oiled wildlife response plan that involves all stakeholders including colony managers, government officials and related wildlife organisations. As of early November, some birds have already been succesfully released.


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