Archived 2012-2013 topics: Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis): uplist to Endangered?

BirdLife species factsheet for Cape Cormorant Cape Cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis is restricted to the West and South Coast of South Africa, Namibia and southern Angola. It is currently listed as Near Threatened under criteria A2b+3bc+4b, owing to moderately rapid declines in its population and range. The population of this species experiences fluctuations owing to variations in oceanographic conditions and consequently food availability (del Hoyo et al. 1992). However, recent information suggests that the population of this species is declining at a more rapid rate than previously thought (T. Cook and J. Kemper in litt. 2013). In South Africa, the population has decreased by 64% over 40 years, from 103,937 breeding pairs (c. 364,000 individuals) in 1978, to 37,408 breeding pairs (c. 131,000 individuals) in 2011 (Crawford et al. 2012). Between 1985 and 2011, the population decreased by 59.2% at the six main breeding islands in this region. Although fewer complete datasets are available from the 12 most important breeding localities in Namibia, the population trends are comparable to that of South Africa; a decline of 59.6% over 27 years, from 143,161 pairs in 1978/9, to 57,343 pairs in 2005/6 (Crawford et al. 2007). No time series of counts exists to gauge population trends in Angola, but the modest number of breeding pairs at Ilha dos Tigres in southern Angola (2,000-2,600) is not thought to impact the overall trends from the two main breeding populations in South Africa and Namibia (T. Cook and J. Kemper in litt. 2013). The negative population trends are likely to be due to a shortage of good quality food and its vulnerability to avian cholera outbreaks (T. Cook and J. Kemper in litt. 2013). If this information is confirmed, and the global population of this species has declined by more than 50% over three generations (33 years in this species) and similar declines are suspected in the future, it would qualify as Endangered under criteria A2ace+3ce+4ace of the IUCN Red List. Information is requested on this species’s global population size and trends. Comments on the proposed uplisting are also welcome. References: Crawford, R. J. M., Dyer, B. M., Kemper, J., Simmon, R. E. and Upfold, L. (2007) Trends in numbers of Cape Cormorants (Phalacrocorax capensis) over a 50-year period, 1956-57 to 2006-07. Emu 107: 253-261. Crawford, R. J. M., Dyer, B. M., Kotze, P. G. H., Meÿer, M. A., Upfold, L. and Makhado, A. B. (2012) Status of seabirds breeding in South Africa in 2011.Status of seabirds breeding in South Africa in 2011. Pp. 1-35. Branch Oceans & Coasts, Department of Environmental Affairs, Cape Town, South Africa. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions: Barcelona, Spain.

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2 Responses to Archived 2012-2013 topics: Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis): uplist to Endangered?

  1. Ross Wanless says:

    In Namibia, the Cape Cormorants were the last to follow the collapse in the small pelagic fish stocks – the African Penguins and Cape Gannets lead the way. It seems likely that this trend is repeating itself in South Africa, with both penguin and gannet populations retreating east, and collapsing in the west. I think the likelihood that the Cape Cormorant decrease will continue into the future is very high, and thus the uplisting is justified

  2. I have to sadly agree with uplisting this species. Our coastal birds’ threat levels are increasing and we need to work on increasing conservation efforts.

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