Although the incident in an anomaly, experts at the foundation worry that the lack of sufficient food could have long-term consequences for the Cape cormorant in the future.
The west coast of southern Africa is home to the Benguela Current, a patch of cool, nutrient-rich water that generally allows small fish to flourish. But rising ocean temperatures due the climate crisis could hamper that productivity.
This past month has seen ocean temperatures around Robben Island up to 3.6 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. Though it may just be driven by natural variability, it’s also a concerning sign of what could come as the world continues to heat up, disrupting the balance of ecosystems.
Foundation response manager Nicky Stander told AFP that if the amount of food continues to dwindle, abandonments are likely to become more common. Cormorants could even stop breeding all together, she said.
“We have been seeing emaciated birds coming into the center for years,” Stander told AFP. “What we are scared of is that this is going to happen more and more in the future.”