Fire forces birds to be evacuated
IT WAS a matter of feather versus flame yesterday when hundreds of seabirds had to be evacuated from a rescue centre in Table View as a fire fast approached.
About 300 penguins and other birds including cormorants and seagulls were rushed to safety.
Staff and volunteers with the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) hurriedly carried boxes containing the seabirds out of the centre. Some firefighters also came to their rescue.
Early yesterday flames came within metres of the Sanccob centre on the wetlands in Rietvlei near Milnerton, where a massive blaze broke out on Thursday night.
When Weekend Argus arrived on the scene yesterday, scores of boxes containing various birds were positioned outside the centre.
Thick plumes of smoke could be seen behind it.
Every now and then the birds could be heard squawking.
Francois Louw, Sanccob’s development and marketing coordinator, said the fire had posed various risks, including structural damage to the building, flames reaching the birds and the dangers of smoke inhalation.
“You’re working with endangered birds that aren’t all healthy,” Louw said.
When the fire neared the centre, the birds at greatest risk had been removed first.
“Approximately 126 of the seabirds are penguin chicks that were recently admitted to the centre after being abandoned in nearby colonies.”
Initially the birds were to have been transported to another safe place.
But firefighters managed to extinguish the flames near the centre so, after staying in the boxes for several hours under strict supervision, the birds were then carried back inside.
When volunteers opened the boxes at a pond in the centre, the birds plopped down into the water and splashed around as if nothing was amiss.
RESCUE MISSION: Hundreds of birds had to be moved from the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds centre in Table View yesterday when a fire got too close.