Urgent rescue efforts under way for oiled Cape Gannets in South Africa

Oiled Cape gannets at SANCCOB Gqeberha.

Oiled Cape gannets at SANCCOB Gqeberha.

Published Mar 28, 2024


The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), in collaboration with SANParks Rangers, swiftly responded to reports over the weekend of oiled Cape gannets, initiating a two-day rescue operation to save the affected birds.

The distressed individuals were transported to SANCCOB Gqeberha for urgent rehabilitation.

Upon admission, each gannet underwent a thorough medical examination by SANCCOB's rehabilitation staff. Despite the efforts, the type and source of the fish oil pollutant remain unidentified, prompting stakeholders to expedite the analysis of feather samples.

Oiled Cape gannets at SANCCOB Gqeberha.

While fish oil itself is not toxic to seabirds, it poses a grave threat by compromising their feather microstructure and waterproofing. This leaves the birds vulnerable to hypothermia as cold water penetrates their skin, impairing their ability to regulate body temperature and navigate the waters effectively.

In a statement, SANCCOB expressed that stabilising the oiled birds “is the immediate priority before proceeding with the washing process”.

The first group of rescued gannets has already undergone the crucial washing procedure, marking the beginning of their four-week rehabilitation journey.

Endemic to South Africa and Namibia, Cape gannets are a critically endangered species, with Bird Island hosting the largest colony globally. The presence of oiled birds in this vital habitat underscores the urgency of the situation and the need for swift action.

Members of the public are urged to report sightings of oiled seabirds to SANCCOB Gqeberha, while donations are crucial to supporting the ongoing rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

By selecting 'Gqeberha Cape Gannets' from the donation list, individuals can contribute to providing essential care for these vulnerable seabirds in their time of need.