According to Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning, the outbreak in the province is still ongoing, with Dyer Island in the Overberg posing the biggest problem.
While it may still be a while before the outbreak is contained, Bredell noted that fewer birds are dying. Fewer than 100 dead birds are now being reported per day, compared to 700 at the beginning of the crisis.
Bredell said, “We continue to see Cape Cormorants most affected and the largest losses on the breeding colony of Dyer Island where roughly 65 birds are dying per day.”
Deaths were previously also seen in Hartlaub’s gull, kelp gull and great white pelicans.
According to the MEC, all hands were on deck to manage the situation, with the primary focus on responding swiftly to areas where dead and sick birds were found, and then implementing a clean-up.
With regard to deaths among seal populations along the coastline of the province, Bredell said the results of the testing that has been conducted by state veterinarian services remain outstanding.
“The testing is taking a while longer than previously expected and the results are now expected by Friday this week. We hope to then have clearer answers relating to the seal deaths we are seeing across the province,” he added.
Public urged to be vigilant
Department media liaison officer James Brent confirmed to Food For Mzansi that the outbreak was not prevalent in domestic birds. They have managed to contain the outbreak to coastlines with the help of partners.
According to an epidemiology report compiled by the Western Cape department of agriculture’s state veterinarian for epidemiology, Laura Roberts, suspected cases were reported regularly but in small numbers (approximately 20) up to 10 October.
“The numbers then increased suddenly and 1 600 [dead] birds were collected on 12 October at the Royal Salt Works. Approximately 100 have been found daily in the area since, though the numbers appear to be decreasing. The total was at 2 700 on 24 October,” Roberts stated.
Numbers have increased steadily since.
The Western Cape disaster management centre has urged the public to remain vigilant across the province and to report unusual behaviour or mortalities in any birds to their local municipality, conservation authority or state veterinarian. The SPCA and NSPCA may also be contacted.
The public is also encouraged to stay away from any seals that have washed up on beaches and to keep dogs away from dead and injured seals. Any seal stranded, whether in the process of dying or dead, should be left alone.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.