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15 Apr 2019

Birds suffer from human irresponsibility

Tamlyn Jolly (Zululand Observer) Picture: This bird, in obvious pain, was found limping badly at the edge of the Umlalazi Lagoon in Mtunzini. PHOTO: Hugh Chittenden

Discarded fishing line can be found by the handful along most stretches of the region’s beaches.

While plastic waste and its effect on wildlife dominate in news headlines, there is another form of litter found in abundance on the Zululand coastline which is often overlooked.

Discarded fishing line can be found by the handful along most stretches of the region’s beaches, and it is detrimental to birds and other wildlife.

Mtunzini-based bird expert Hugh Chittenden has photographed Woolly-necked Storks and a Palm Nut Vulture with their feet and legs entangled in fishing line.

‘The photos graphically illustrate some of the worst traits in humans, and I for one hang my head in shame at our irresponsibility and the knock-on effects to wildlife that we profess to care for,’ said Chittenden.

‘How have we become so insensitive to our surroundings?’

Chittenden photographed three different Woolly-necked Storks, all suffering from swollen feet, toes or legs owing to the blood supply being cut off by the tight fishing lines.

 

This Palm Nut Vulture would have in all probability lost its badly swollen toe shortly after this photograph was taken PHOTO: Hugh Chittenden

Two of the three storks were photographed at Albert Falls Dam in the Midlands and the third, and the Palm Nut Vulture, were photographed in Mtunzini.

Both Albert Falls Dam and Mtunzini are conservation-protected areas.

‘Entangled birds can no longer roost on tree branches at night as they no longer have the capability to clasp onto the branch when the wind blows.’

Chittenden said the toe of the Palm Nut Vulture that he photographed would probably have fallen off shortly thereafter, owing to the extent to which it was swollen from a lack of blood supply.

‘There should be more accountability, not only relating to keeping water margins clean of debris, but also signage to alert and educate fishermen on the dangers of items such as discarded fishing line.

‘While the blame lies squarely at the feet of anglers, not all are irresponsible.

‘I have friends who are keen fishermen, and I know they act very responsibly and would never discard a single matchstick at the water’s edge, let alone bunches of discarded fishing line.

‘Sadly, judging by the amount of fishing line lying around dams and along beaches, the majority of fishermen seem to have no concern for the way they litter.’