uShaka’s Sea World team had the pleasure of seeing an extremely rare visitor to South Africa and releasing it back to the ocean.
The rare visitor, a Tropical Shearwater, was released 15 nautical miles off Durban’s coast by uShaka Sea World’s veterinarian, Dr Francois Lampen.
According to ornithologist Dr Dave Allen, Curator Birds at Durban’s Natural Science Museum, the bird has only been spotted twice before in South Africa!
The fledgling Shearwater was found on North Beach by local resident Peter Sinclair who took it to Dr Allen for identification. Recognising the severity of this very unusual visitor’s condition, he made arrangements for the bird to be transported to uShaka Sea World.
Dr Francois Lampen was on hand to admit the patient, who was named little Jimmy. It was evident that young Jimmy was emaciated and in desperate need of nourishment if he was to have any chance of recovery. Much to the animal care staff’s delight, Jimmy was keen to eat the fish offered to him and over the next few weeks his zealous appetite saw him gaining more than 300 grams, which is a lot for a tiny bird.
As soon as Dr Lampen was satisfied that his condition had improved the shearwater was started on physiotherapy in the saltwater pools to strengthen his injured right leg.
On Monday 19 April, Jimmy was given a clean bill of health and put on the passenger list of the first offshore boat trip which promised good sea conditions.
After more than three weeks on land, Jimmy moved towards the water and then for some reason turned around and came back to the boat. Francois then helped him for a second time into the water and this time Jimmy did not look back. After 15 minutes of thorough preening he took off into the skies without a backward glance.
Dr Allan, who was on the boat for the momentous occasion, said that in all likelihood Jimmy would spend the next two years flying around the Indian ocean before heading back to Reunion Island to breed.
“On Earth Day, it is important for us all to remember that our actions do count. Regardless of how big or small an animal is, they need our protection, care and our love. It was an honour and a privilege to have been part of a group of conservationists committed to giving young Jimmy a second chance, And yes, when he took off into the winds my heart sang, smiled and danced all at the same time – I was truly happy” said Dr Lampen”.