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Tracking non-breeding endangered Benguela seabirds to inform conservation strategies

Raised of $10,000 Goal
Funded on 12/04/21
Successfully Funded
  • $10,025
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 12/04/21

About This Project

Cape Cormorants and Cape Gannets are Endangered seabirds that primarily feed on sardine and anchovy . Although their breeding movements are well known, their non-breeding movements are yet to be discovered. Knowing where they go throughout the year will identify areas of common use that need protection. Seabirds are indicators of marine ecosystem health and tracking these species will provide insights into the state of South Africa's marine ecosystem.

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What is the context of this research?

The population trends of three Benguela Endangered seabirds, Cape Cormorant, Cape Gannet and African Penguin, are tightly coupled to their prey abundances, which are commercially exploited forage fish. To alleviate competition for prey with fisheries, conservation strategies such has colony-centric no-take zones have been proposed. However, these strategies were based on the behavioral response of birds to variable prey abundances gathered from GPS tracks of breeding birds. We have no information on how these birds respond to varying prey supplies outside their breeding season. In addition, the wider distribution of non-breeding seabirds increases the probability of the birds interacting with potentially risky anthropogenic activities.

What is the significance of this project?

Outside of the breeding season, birds are no longer spatially constrained by the need to care for young. The movement information of non-breeding birds will enable us to assess the response of these birds' foraging behavior to natural and anthropogenic drivers of their prey supplies at a larger scale compared to breeding birds . As these birds specialize on commercially exploited prey, their movement can be used to inform an Ecosystem-based Approach to Fisheries and identify important foraging areas that currently lack conservation and management strategies to protect these species. These data are critical for the conservation of these Endangered species especially in terms of managing their common prey supplies more effectively.

What are the goals of the project?

For the first time, we aim to quantify the non-breeding distribution of Cape Cormorants and Cape Gannets. We will deploy trackers on birds nearing the end of their breeding attempt at colonies along coast of South Africa. We will present these data to the relevant governmental and managerial structures as marine Important Bird Areas as areas in need of greater protection. Links between the foraging behavior of the birds (e.g. foraging 'hotspot' and residency time and links to future breeding success) and anthropogenic and natural drivers (e.g. bycatch, climate and prey removal by fisheries) will be presented to relevant governmental structures to be incorporated in South Africa's Ecosystem-based Approach to Fisheries management practices.


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The budget is for GPS-GSM tracking devices. These device cost ~$1000 so we are hoping to fund 10 loggers through Experiment. To complete our study we would need at least 40 loggers. These devices are attached to the birds and will log their movements at specified intervals and then transmit the data back via the cellular network. It is vital to have a large enough sample size of individuals to get a representative distribution of where the birds go. Expenses allocated to field work and staff time will be supported by existing funding streams that recognise the importance of the proposed project.

Endorsed by

Tracking data from seabirds are invaluable in terms of guiding marine spatial planning initiatives aiming at protecting important habitat. Very little is known about habitat use in most of the the non-breeding Benguela endemics- this project will hopefully fill this important knowledge gap.
This project is much needed to obtain data that will inform marine spatial planning in the Benguela upwelling system. Cape Gannets and Cape Cormorants are among the four endemic seabirds in this ecosystem that are Endangered. All seabirds spend a great proportion of their time at sea and it is critical to manage their at-sea as well as their breeding habitats. At-sea issues have been major drivers of recent large decreases of Cape Gannets and Cape Cormorants.
This project will provide much-needed information on the movements these Endangered seabirds to allow us to better conserve them. Tegan is very well-qualified to run this project having focused on seabird movement ecology for her PhD and subsequent work at BirdLife South Africa.
The proposed project is essential for the protection of several endangered seabird species in the Benguela Upwelling System. Data obtained will directly be used for advising on management interventions. This project will add to BirdLife South Africa's important work for bird conservation in Africa and SANCCOB is happy to be collaborating with BirdLife South Africa on some of their seabird projects, including the proposed study.
This is a much needed project to identify important foraging areas for non-breeding endangered seabird species. Knowledge of their spatial and temporal foraging requirements and activities in the non breeding season is essential to guide marine spatial planning to improve these species’ protection. Dr Carpenter-Kling is highly regarded within the South African seabird scientific and conservation community and given her experience in assessing foraging distributions of threatened seabird species, is perfectly placed to lead this research.

Project Timeline

Between 2022 - 2024, the project aims to track Cape Cormorants and Cape Gannets at two sites each. Each species will be tracked from a breeding colony on the west and east coasts of South Africa. Completion of the project will be dependent on funding for GPS-GSM loggers.

Oct 20, 2021

Project Launched

Mar 31, 2022

Funding for logger acquired

Mar 31, 2022

Permits and ethics approved

Oct 01, 2022

Loggers received

Feb 28, 2023

10 loggers attached to non-breeding Cape Gannets from Bird Island, Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Meet the Team

Tegan Carpenter-Kling
Tegan Carpenter-Kling


Bird Life South Africa and Coastal and Marine Research Institute at Nelson Mandela University
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Tegan Carpenter-Kling

At BirdLife South Africa, Tegan is responsible for the research on coastal seabirds. Using her background in spatial statistics, Tegan is collecting and using tracking data from Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants and African Penguins during different life-history stages to fill knowledge gaps and inform conservation and management strategies. Tegan has a PhD in Zoology from Nelson Mandela University, her thesis used tracking and stable isotope data from ten seabird species and two fur seal species to investigate their foraging behaviour in relation to environmental variability.

Additional Information

Project Backers

  • 30Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $10,025Total Donations
  • $232.87Average Donation
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