The South African Bird Ringing Unit

Ringing birds around Africa!

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The History Of SAFRING

The first record!

In 1909 a White Stork was shot in KwaZulu-Natal. It had a Hungarian ring 209 and had been put on a stork chick in Romania in the previous year. This was the first scientific evidence of a migrant crossing the equator.

The first ringing session

Bird ringing in South Africa started in 1948 when the Southern African Ornithological Society (SAOS) initiated a bird ringing scheme under the leadership of Dr EH Ashton. The first birds to be ringed were 31 Cape Vultures Gyps coprotheres, ringed on 1 August 1948 at Kranzberg by a team of birders and mountaineers. A year later one of these, ring C00086 was found near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the first recovery of a southern African bird ring.

The early years

Bird ringing was initially organized by an NGO (Southern African Ornithological Society, SAOS) and the ringing effort steadily increased and by the 1960s the cost and complexity of administering the scheme exceeded the resources of the SAOS. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) coordinated a deal whereby the four provincial conservation departments became the major sponsors of the National Unit for Bird Ringing Administration (NUBRA), in 1971, based at the University of Cape Town.

The National Bird Ringing Unit (NBRU) was set up more or less at the beginning of 1972. At this time Clive Elliott encouraged ringers to submit direct to the scheme, rather than via the branch organisers (Mitteilungen Orn. Arbeitsgruppe 1972, 8(5):3). Ringers also now had to pay for rings as the scheme grew, although free rings were available for ringing projects.

1991 The ADU

The unit became part of the Avian Demography Unit, Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, in 1991, which became the Animal Demography Unit, and moved to the Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, in January 2008. In 2008 SAFRING organised a wide variety of events to celebrate its 60th anniversary of bird ringing in South Africa. Note: The salient dates and key events in the history of bird ringing in South Africa until 1992 were described by Underhill & Oatley (1994).

National ringing training workshops and meetings
Ringing training is on-going as trainees go with ringers to gain practical experience. Regular courses, workshops and conferences allow training opportunities for trainees as well as interaction and encouragement between ringers. The national and international courses are listed below.
7-9 October 1994 Bonamanzi National Ringing Workshop 1
1-3 March 1996 Sandveld NR National Ringing Workshop 2
7-9 March 1997 Cintsa NR National Ringing Workshop 3
3-5 July 1998 Bonamanzi 50th Anniversary Ringing Workshop
4-12 March 2000 Witsand NR National Ringing course 1
14-19 October 2001 Lamberts Bay National Ringing course 2 (seabirds)
3-9 December 2001 Wakkerstroom National Ringing course 3
20-26 October 2002 Lamberts Bay National Ringing course 4
1-7 December 2002 Wakkerstroom National Ringing course 5
15-23 November 2003 Lamberts Bay National Ringing course 6 (terns)
3-9 January 2004 Wakkerstroom National Ringing course 7
21-27 August 2004 De Hoop NR National Ringing course 8
3-7 January 2005 Wakkerstroom National Ringing course 9
11-17 November 2005 Landela National Ringing course 10
4-8 December 2006 Robben Island Afring Seabird Ringing (BENEFIT)
14-19 October 2007 Cape Town National Research training week
4-7 December 2008 Ezemvelo 60th Anniversary Conference
7-12 December 2008 Wakkerstroom National Ringing course 11
2-5 May 2010 Port Elizabeth National Ringing course 12
11-15 March 2010 Barberspan National Ringers Conference
9-16 March 2011 Barberspan National Ringers and Atlasers Conference
28 Nov - 1 Dec 2013 Barberspan National Ringing Conference
27-30 Nov 2015 Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station Pilot Citizen Science Event

International ringing training courses
19-25 September 2004 Watamu, Kenya Afring/AEWA Waterbird Ringing 1
20-28 October 2006 Accra, Ghana Afring/AEWA Waterbird Ringing 2
26 Oct – 7 Nov 2008 Zambia Afring/AEWA Waterbird Ringing 3
18-23 September 2011 Cousin Island, Seychelles Bird ringing course
29 March - 6 April 2012 Zambia Bird ringing course
11-16 February 2014 Cousin and Cousine Islands, Seychelles Bird ringing course
12-22 July 2015 Fregate Island, Seychelles Bird ringing course