“When things are bad, we take comfort in the thought that they could always get worse. And when they do get worse, we find hope in the thought that things are so bad they must get better.” Quote adjusted from original quote by Malcom Forbes

There is an outbreak of Avian Influenza amongst seabirds in the Western Cape. A disaster hidden in a short sentence. 10 500 Cape Cormorants have succumbed to the disease.

Avian Influenza is a different monster. It is a raging forest fire. We must suddenly deal with the dark cloud of death that rolls over a colony of breeding cape cormorants and leaves a scar of empty nests and bundles of unmoving feathers.

Conservation agencies, seabird rehabilitation facilities, veterinarians and a multitude of other animal rescue organisations are facing this storm. In normal circumstances all these organisations  rescues seabirds. These organisations do everything they can to rehabilitate and release seabirds back into the big blue, to try to maintain the ever-dwindling population numbers of our seabirds. Then a disaster like this strikes.

Suddenly terms like carcass removal and disposal, euthanasia and bio-hazard protocols flood our conversations. These words that do not feel comfortable or familiar. We all understand what we must do. Stop the embers flying around, lower the viral load by removing carcasses. There is no rescue only dealing with the dead. We focus and get through this one day at a time. Fighting the dark feathered thoughts.

We would like to thank everybody that is part of the massive effort with a special gratitude to the teams working on Dyer Island, at De Mond and Velddrift where the impact is devastating and the smell of lime and death nests in the mind.

  • To the seabird conservation crews that are now diminished to collecting stats and co-ordinating carcass removals.
  • To the veterinarian crews who are assisting in making the suffering less for the seabirds but are left with a dark hole in their soul.
  • To the conservation agencies who have to dig deeper not only to find the finances to deal with the disaster but literally to bury the carcasses.
  • To the disaster managers and media spokespeople who must make this make sense.
  • To the IT people developing apps that will make reporting easier and data collection better.

Thank you for standing together, hopefully we are now in the dark hour just before dawn.

Cape cormorant suffering from Avian Influenza