Fear for lives of darted gulls

Athina May

Someone appears to be shooting Hartluab’s gulls with a blowgun: three of the protected birds were spotted with darts protruding from various parts of their bodies on Melkbosstrand beachfront.

The injured birds were identified by Peanut Animal Welfare, which alerted the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) last month. The foundation has tried unsuccessfully to capture the birds to remove the darts.

“The birds are still able to fly, but without proper treatment, the injuries may result in infection, which could be fatal. The exact source of the darts has yet to be determined and it is unclear why these birds are being darted.”

“Hartlaub’s gulls are occasionally seen as pests by residents and business owners because of their preference for human food and the presence of guano wherever they are located. However, despite their abundance in the Western Cape, the overall population numbers for this species of gull are quite low,” said Roxanne Abrahams of Sanccob.

Ms Abrahams said the birds were a protected species under the Seabirds and Seals Protection Act.

“They have possibly moved further down the coast, but in all likelihood, if the birds aren’t rescued, they would succumb to the long term effect of infection,” she warned.

Sanccob have asked anyone with information about the darting of the birds to call 021 557 6155 during office hours or 078 638 3731 after hours and weekends.