They put their beaks through small holes in boxes in which they were carried: abandoned by their parents, hundreds of baby cormorants, an endangered species, have recently been rescued at the southern tip of Africa.
A long neck, sometimes black layer with a light spot under the beak, 1,800 young specimens were recovered by boat from Robben Island in January, known for capturing Nelson Mandela, a seabird clinic for.
The operation was delicate. Around 900 children died during transportation or in the first days after arrival. Today there are just over 1,100 left.
Sitting in the sun, equipped with protective overalls, teams from the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCOBB) examine the throats of small birds.
“To Hyde them,” says manager Nikki Stander. “If they are not in water, they have to be manually hydrated.”
Feed them, give them weight, clean them … 30 to 50 volunteers come every day to lend a hand, to care for little orphans.
In the nursery section, the smallest chickens are kept, wrapped in soft towels. They do not yet know how to eat on their own and should eat by hand with small pieces of sardines.
– sardine platters –
The old birds are in an enclosure, where they can spread their wings and begin swimming. When the platter of sardines arrives, they come running. Three tons of small fish are swallowed every two weeks.
Upon arrival, the chickens weighed between 300 and 600 grams. They will reach 1 kg at maturity. The strongest ones may soon be released into the wild. Younger people will remain at the center until the end of the month.
“We have to make them wait until they have developed their dip so that they can become waterproof,” says Ms. Stander.
SANCOBB is South Africa’s largest maritime rescue organization. Every year, it welcomes over 2,000 samples to its specialized hospital.
“At first, we thought that the birds were released due to the scorching heat in the (southern) summer. But with other scientists, we now think that food shortages are probably to blame.”
The inability of parents unable to feed young children, she says, overheating the sea sinking: “We’ve been seeing birds coming to the center for years,” she said. “What if they can’t get enough fish in the wild?”
Cape cormorants could then continue to release their eggs and chickens, causing a further decline in the already endangered species, he said, given the worst-case scenario. Experts say, and other seabirds are also experiencing the same problem.