Oil covered penguins and gannets continually washed up after Kiani Satu oil spill

More and more penguins and gannets have been found washed up covered in oil following the the Kiani Satu oil spill. The Kiani Satu, a stricken bulk carrier, ran aground last week between Buffels Bay and Sedgefield in the Goukamma Marine Protected Area.

One of the penguins  washed up  due to the oil leaking from the Kiani Satu.

One of the penguins washed up due to the oil leaking from the Kiani Satu.

Thirty one stricken oil covered penguins and 98 gannets have been admitted by Sanccob to the Cape St Francis rehabilitation centre. More are waiting lifts from Port Elizabeth or Knysna to Cape St Francis and volunteer drivers are or lifts are needed to deliver the birds.

Yesterday, 15 August, 97 of the gannets were rescued from Bird Island off Port Elizabeth. Capture and rescue teams were dispatched and Sanccob staff were flown by helicopter to the island.

The teams proceeded carefully through the colony of Cape gannets to identify oiled birds. The Cape gannet colony on Bird Island is estimated to consist of 110 000 breeding pairs and is the largest Cape gannet rookery in South Africa.

The birds are currently preparing for their annual breeding season. It is normal for them to fly great distances to optimal foraging areas. It is believed these gannets foraged in the oil polluted region and flew back to the island.

The birds were packed in Sanccob’s specially designed transport boxes and flown flown from the island to Paardevlei, Woody Cape section of Addo Elephant National Park. Here they received electrolyte fluids before they were transported by road to Cape St. Francis.

Twenty two Sanccob, SANParks rangers, Tenikwa staff and local volunteers admitted the birds until late last night. The birds were then sectioned into groups according to their strength and the percentage of oiling. Around 9 pm the birds finally settled down for the night under the warm infrared lights.

The 17 African penguins were admitted from the Garden Route over the past two days. The majority of the birds are juveniles and tend to travel far distances from their natal colonies to forage. Most of these penguins are heavily oiled and fairly weak and require intensive care before they will be ready for washing.

Venessa Strauss (Sanccob Conservation Director) says the action plan for the next couple of days is to restore the hydration of the birds by giving them electrolyte fluids, as well to improve their strength by feeding them pilchards twice daily.

“Over the weekend, we will focus on washing the lightly oiled birds first and hopefully be able to release them towards the end of next week”. After the stressful washing process it takes a number of days for the birds to regain their natural water-proofing by swimming in the pools at the rehabilitation centre. Sanccob’s veterinary team will evaluate the blood values, weight and feather condition of each bird to ensure they are fit and healthy for release back into the wild.

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The SANParks Marine Section Rangers continue to be stationed on Bird Island for the next few days to monitor the colony and capture any oiled gannets. On the Garden Route, the CapeNature, SANParks, Disaster Management teams and local volunteers are actively patrolling the beaches for oiled birds.

“We urge the public not to attempt to remove the oil from any penguins or gannets. On finding oiled seabirds please immediately contact Sanccob (Wilna Wilkinson – 082 326 4143) or Eden Biodiversity and Coastal Management (Vernon Gibbs – 072 670 5108) and they will arrange for collection.

For any media queries, photo opportunities and scheduled visit please contact Sanccob’s Communications Officer, Francois Louw atfrancois@sanccob.co.za; 042 298 016

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