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Mystery deaths of Ibises
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Mystery deaths of Ibises

Sunday, 23 January 2011
There have been distressingly high numbers of dead birds at the leiwater dam this past month. I have personally black bagged well over 30 since last Saturday and contacted Korne Claassen via Vrolijkheid on Saturday afternoon as the sudden dropping from the trees of mature ibises was distressing and quite perplexing. Cape Nature is involved and two dead birds have been sent to Onderstepoort for investigation. Korne agrees that it does seem to be a case of poisoning, whether from natural causes - perhaps the heat wave from the week before had something to do with the flourishing of something like botulism (lamsiekte). But until Onderstepoort gives a verdict, we will not know, and apparently they can take up to 2 weeks to do so. Fortunately the deaths seem to be slowing down now. Only adult and just recently a few juvenile ibises have been directly affected. I know that due to their sometimes rather disgusting eating habits, ibises are prone to getting botulism.

A distressing and not pretty sight. I think all parties affected by the birds or interested in them should get together and discuss how they should be handled in future. There should be no radical and one sided action taken, but a win/win solution sought that will give adequate satisfaction to leiwater, tourism, eco club, neighbours, birdlovers, bunnyhuggers, SPCA and of course the main players, the birds themselves. Cape Nature should be involved also.

The birds are very overcrowded and while this can be pitiful, I personally don't think this has anything to do with the current deaths. However, perhaps the whole thing can be managed better if we all decide that this is what we aim to do? There will always be a solution found for every problem. These birds are beautiful and wonderful in spite of it all and I truly believe that they are a very underutilized asset to Montagu. Most birders I chat to say they had no idea the colony existed but came across it by chance. So I believe it to be an untapped and under appreciated source of much good to Montagu. The viewing platform has already made a big difference, giving dignity and and a sense of respectful importance to this valuable site/sight.
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