Having just enjoyed an early morning walk on Strandfontein Beach with the dogs, all nine of them, Barbara and I were driving out of the car park and onto Baden Powell Drive, when I noticed something flapping near the water’s edge. I stopped the car and walked down to the distressed creature, which was a juvenile Kelp Gull.
It was flailing in the shallow water, being knocked by the waves, and was unable to fly away. I then realised that it was ensnared; it had tried to swallow a piece of bait, which was, unfortunately attached to a mean looking hook. The hook had become firmly hooked into the poor bird’s beak and was protruding from its nostril. The gull was frantic, as it pulled and twisted to try and free itself, but the fishing tackle was firmly embedded into the sand, probably by the sinkers, and so the bird was trapped. I tried unsuccessfully to free the tackle from the sand, but it wouldn’t budge.
I managed to grab the bird around the neck, and lift it up, out of the water. I always carry a knife with me, as I have, on numerous occasions, rescued birds entangled in fishing tackle, but fortunately, a kind gentleman helped to cut the tackle from the bird. Back at the vehicle, I put the bird in a box and was able to remove the hook from its beak. The poor gull was bleeding from its beak, caused by its struggle to free itself from its encumbrance, and besides being a bit underweight, was otherwise in fine fettle, as it repeatedly tried to peck at me; that’s gratitude for you. It had been ringed, by SAFRING, and in between trying to dodge being attacked, I managed to record the ring number. I will report this rescue to SAFRING at the Animal Demography Unit at UCT.
Being a First Responder for SANCCOB, I took the bird home, boxed it in one of SANCCOB’s special seabird rescue boxes, and took it to Shark Spotters in Muizenberg, for collection by SANCCOB.
I’m so pleased that I was in the right place at the right time, and was able to help a bird in distress. I just wish that the many fishermen who fish from the beach all along the Strandfontein coastline, were more conscious of the negative effects their fishing tackle has on marine life, shore dwelling birds, other wildlife, and dogs who frequent the beach. Just this week I had to remove a hook, attached to a length of fishing tackle, from the mouth of my own dog, Becky!!!
Written by: Marilyn Hoole (TEARS Director and Co-founder)