Komani Karoo Express

Cradock seeks protection for egrets

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One of the injured egret chicks.
One of the injured egret chicks.
Photo: TRACEY MICHAU

Pruning of trees and the destruction of nests of protected white egret birds (bubulbus ibis) have been the talk of the town in Cradock for the past two weeks.

While environmentalists and animal lovers are doing their best to protect the birds, residents in the affected areas will do anything to get rid of the smell of droppings, broken eggs and dead chicks on houses, cars and in the street.

The week before last, the story of maimed egret chicks, eggs and dead birds lying in the street, becoming the prey of stray cats and being killed by falling branches from trees pruned by employees of Inxuba Yethemba Municipality, (IYM) was talked about and widely reported in the press.

Local animal lover, Tracey Michau, and helpers, tried their best to save as many of the birds, some with broken beaks or wings or squashed under branches, and some too small to eat on their own.

They saved the lives of quite a number of birds by feeding the little ones scrambled eggs and chicken hearts and keeping them warm and safe.

Hundreds of birds have, however, died in the process.

Together with Brendan and Danella Murray, from the owl rescue unit at Hartebees-poort Dam, Michau and her team persuaded the municipality to temporarily down tools regarding the egrets.

Danella Murray requested that the pruning of trees be postponed until May or June, when the breeding season should be more or less over.

“Egret hatchlings take 45 days to become independent and pruning should therefore only take place after the birds can fly,” she said.

The Murrays arrived in Cradock in a light plane the previous Saturday but, after finding 50 chicks that were worth saving, they had to rent a bakkie to take the precious load to the SA Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Gauteng.

Mkhululi Mbebe, acting municipal manager of IYM expressed his regret at authorising the cutting of the trees in order to keep the branches from touching the electricity wires.

“I really didn’t know that birds lived in those trees,” he said apologetically. He promised that before any such projects are due to take place in future, he would consult with the correct authorities on how the job should be done.

IYM Executive Mayor, Noncebo Zonke, has advised that a meeting of interested parties, environmental specialists and ward councillors would be called to discuss the matter and find a plan to suit everybody.

She confirmed that after the news of saving the egrets became known, they had been inundated with letters, voice notes and telephone calls regarding the birds.

“People who live in the vicinity of where the birds roost, told us what a hard time they have with birds marking their homes and cars with their excrement, the horrible smell of small chicks and rotten eggs falling on the sidewalks and that it even affected people suffering from asthma,” Zonke said.

Danella Murray of the owl rescue unit at Hartebeespoort Dam.

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