Feeding the Wild at SANCCOB (The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds)
It has been another busy week at SANCCOB with more new arrivals, including a stunning juvenile gannet.
I've had some great practice and hands on experience with the birds the last few days, and was even promoted to be a supervisor of one of the pens!
I am getting much better and quicker with handling, feeding and tubing- all of which comes down to time and practice.
Feeding the birds at Sanccob is much more difficult than at Seaview as unfortunately we can't just throw the fish to them! For any of you who have visited the park, you will know how easily our penguins and pelicans take their food from us! At SANCCOB however, the birds are wild so most of them will not free feed. This means that the majority need to be force fed, which involves restraining them, then opening their beaks (using a glove for protection!) and pushing the fish carefully down their throats until they swallow it. Although it doesn't look very nice for the birds, it is incredibly important that it is done as they won't actually feed on their own and would therefore starve. We also have to tube feed them with waters, darrows (an energy/electrolyte solution), formula and various medicines.
Some of the penguins and are easier than others to feed and tube. The adults have incredibly powerful beaks and are very strong which makes restraining them difficult, whilst the smaller and younger birds are weaker but have tiny beaks. One of the most difficult birds are the cormorants as their throats are very narrow. You have to be very careful when feeding or tubing the gannets as although their throats are larger, their beaks are serrated and incredible powerful. It has also been noted in their behaviour that they can often strike at the face or eyes when feeling threatened, which makes things more complicated as you have to keep your head fairly close to the beak and throat to make sure the tubing is going correctly!
Despite the difficulties, it is an amazing experience working with these birds, knowing that our efforts are going towards their recovery and hopefully- their future release back to the wild!