December 21, 2005

Cape Town replaces alien ducks with native species

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Fifteen African ducks have won Cape Town's battle of the birds, replacing more hardy European species that have been forcibly removed from the South African tourist city's reservoirs.

Officials this week released native yellow-billed ducks into two reservoirs after removing 26 mallard ducks and members of five other alien species in a programme to wipe out alien fauna and flora in the area -- recognized as one of the world's smallest distinct local ecosystems.

"The city's biodiversity strategy highlights the importance of conserving our own," said Cape Town councilor Themba Sikhutshwa.

Mallard ducks, originally from Europe, muscle out the indigenous yellow-billed duck through rapid breeding and by drowning the weaker species' young.

Sikhutshwa said another batch of indigenous ducks would be released early next year, and appealed to residents to stop feeding the alien birds and to help remove them from reservoirs.

Conservationists created a furor amongst animal lovers last year when they culled over 100 Himalayan tahrs -- goat-like mammals that bred for more than a century on Cape Town's Table Mountain after some escaped from a nearby zoo -- to allow the indigenous klipspringer antelope to return.