Cape cormorants (illustration).


Gerard Lacz / Rex Featu / REX / SIPA

Abandoned by their parents, hundreds of baby Cape Cormorants, an endangered species, have recently been rescued at the southern tip of Africa.

These birds, with long necks and black plumage with sometimes a light spot under the beak, were brought back in January by boat from Robben Island (South Africa) to a seabird clinic.

The operation was delicate.

It concerned 1,800 young specimens.

Almost 900 chicks died during transport or in the first days after arrival.

There are just over 1,100 left today.

92 of 800g-900g #Capecormorant chicks moved to a specially erected aviary on-site today.

Sadly, about 9% of chicks rescued died within the first 24 hours of admission.

Deaths & sick chicks in ICU lessens every day.

Rescue story at


- SANCCOB (@SANCCOB) January 24, 2021

30 to 50 volunteers come daily

Now, teams from the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCOBB), pass probes in the throats of small birds "to hydrate them", explains an official, Nicky Stander.

"If they are not in the water, they have to be hydrated manually."

Between 30 and 50 volunteers come every day to lend a hand to take care of the little orphans and to feed them, weigh them and clean them.

When they arrived, these chicks weighed between 300 to 600 grams.

They will reach 1 kg at maturity.

The strongest ones can soon be released into the wild.

The little ones will stay in the center until the end of the month.

"We have to wait until they have developed their plumage so that they can become waterproof" before releasing them, explains Nicky Stander.

Is overfishing involved?

“At first, we thought that the birds were abandoned because of the high heat in summer (southern).

But with other scientists, we now think that the lack of food is probably to blame, ”she continues.

The inability of cormorant parents to feed their young is, according to her, the overfishing that plunders the oceans: “We have seen emaciated birds arriving at the center for years”.

If Cape Cormorants cannot find enough fish in the wild, then they could continue to abandon their eggs and chicks, causing the already endangered species to decline further.


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