The death of 35 waterbirds in the Kamfers Dam, a natural heritage site in Kimberley in the Northern Cape, remain a mystery, says Mase Manopole, MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs, land reform and rural development in the province.
It is suspected that the birds have died due to avian botulism, a serious neuromuscular illness of birds caused by a toxin.
Despite earlier fears, laboratory analysis has not found clostridium in water samples taken at the dam, says Manopole.
Scientists and veterinarians from the department were sent to the dam to determine the cause of the bird mortalities. Ekapa, a local mining company, assisted with water and tissue samples sent for analysis.
“Further tissue samples will be collected and submitted for analysis to have a complete picture of what could have been the course of the mortalities,” says Manopole.
“The dam is known as the home to the Lesser Flamingo. However, no reports have been received on the death of flamingos at this stage.”
Waterbirds on farms
Experts say the mysterious waterbird deaths may also be of interest to agricultural producers with water resources on their land. Waterbirds occupy an important niche in streamside and wetland habitats. Their presence indicates a healthy ecosystem and can add value to agricultural lands.
According to BirdLife South Africa the Kamfers dam regularly holds more than 20 000 birds of 63 different waterbird species.
Manopole calls on members of the public not to consume meat from the bird carcasses as it might have detrimental health impacts.
In addition, the MEC further cautions people not to handle dead waterbirds with their bare hands, and not to harvest birds that appear to be sick or dying. Also, pets should never be allowed to eat dead waterbirds.
Manopole’s department will continue to collect and incinerate dead birds to prevent and minimise further mortalities.