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28 Aug 2019

CROW releases Cape gannet into the wild

Earl Baillach (South Coast Sun) Picture: PHOTOS: Lana Bartholomew

The Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) successfully released a Cape gannet back into the wild that was collected from Amanzimtoti SPCA last month. Amanzimtoti SPCA manager, Tracey Girling said they received a call from Keegan Murgatroyd to alert them to the gannet in distress on Baggies Beach and together with her inspector, Dawn du Plooy, they responded. “It looked like he had most likely swallowed something and he was fatigued. We suspected he was following the sardines. Fortunately Dawn was a manager at the bird park for 10 years, so she knows a lot about them.”

The SPCA called CROW who collected the bird.

Cape gannets can be identified by their large size, black and white plumage and distinctive yellow crown and hindneck. They are fish-eating birds that dive from considerable height to catch their prey. Depending on the altitude, they can hit the water at speeds of between 40 and 120kmh and its beak has no external nostrils into which the water might be forced.

“He was unable to move or stand and was incredibly weak, which raised concern to the possibility that he may have had spinal damage or a broken pelvis,” said CROW communications officer, Lana Bartholomew.

The gannet was sent to the vet for X-rays, which is standard procedure at the centre as many shore birds that are admitted often have hooks or foreign bodies lodged in their intestinal tracts. There were no breaks, hooks or a clear reason for why he was not well. The dedicated nurses at the centre then suspected botulism, a toxin which commonly affects shore birds that targets the nervous system, which causes paralysis.

The injured Cape gannet in its enclosure at CROW before being released back into the wild.

“It is standard procedure for the first 72 hours to provide them with oral fluid therapy and activated charcoal tablets to help eliminate the toxins from their system. We then started to slowly feed him solids again to help boost his metabolism. After that we increased his diet to what a wild shore bird would normally eat. We were happy to see when he started standing, walking and eating by himself.”

He showed remarkable progress over the weeks and CROW decided he was ready to be released. With assistance from Lynski Fishing Charters Durban, they were able to venture out deep sea on Friday, 9 August to release the Gannet back into the wild where he belongs. “The charter passengers received more adventure than they were expecting and celebrated the release along with the staff. Thank you to Brad Lynski for helping us with this release and Amanzimtoti SPCA for assisting us and caring for him until we arrived,” said Lana.

PHOTOS: Lana Bartholomew

Tracey and the SPCA crew were chuffed to hear the gannet had survived and is hopefully hunting for his next sardine. “It is rare for us to see Cape gannets in Toti nowadays. They come with the sardines and in recent past there hasn’t been many, but this year there seemed to be plenty of birds accompanying them.”

CROW is the only wildlife rehabilitation centre in Durban registered to work with all types of indigenous wildlife found in KZN. Every year the centre rescues, rehabilitates and releases over 3 000 orphaned, injured and displaced wild animals. As a registered non-profit organisation, CROW treats indigenous wildlife free of charge and it relies solely on the support of the community. If you would like to donate where it is most needed, visit its website www.crowkzn.co.za.