TEN YEARS OF THE CORMORANT
The first issue of Cormorant, then a bulletin of the Southern African Seabird Group, was published in November 1976. Over ten years have passed and it is therefore fitting to reflect in this editorial on what I said in the first one. I started that editorial: "Southern Africa has lagged behind in research on seabirds. It is surprising to think that the Jackass Penguin is still less well known than the Adelie." However, I went on to note the recent "upsurge in interest" in seabird research in southern Africa, specifically mentioning work on the Jackass Penguin and at sub-Antarctic Marion Island.
It is pleasing to report that the "upsurge" has resulted in a healthy batch of publications. Richard Brooke's excellent revision of the South African Red Data Book for birds (Brooke 1984, S. Afr. Nat. Sci. Frog. Rpt 97:1-213) lists 93 references for the Jackass Penguin in what is only a "selected", not a complete, bibliography. Sixty-six (71 %) of these are dated after 1976. "Penguins of the World: a bibliography" (Williams et al. 1985), reviewed in this issue of Cormorant, has one and a half pages of reference numbers for the Jackass Penguin in the species index; the Adelie Penguin gets two. So the Adelie is still ahead but the Jackass must be catching up! A closer look at the index shows that there are no less than 87 references for the Adelie Penguin with the subject code "behaviour"; for the Jackass Penguin there are only 21. Recent research on the Jackass Penguin has been ecological in nature, concentrating to a great extent on the species' vulnerable status. The Adelie seems to be under no threat and perhaps this is why research on that species has been more "academic".
Turning to Marion Island, a recent compilation by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Bird Biology Subcommittee of the Working Group on Biology reveals that South Africa has as many as 92 scientific articles published or in press for the period 1984-1986 alone, dealing with Southern Ocean seabirds. This figure compares most favourably with similar publication totals for the other countries involved in research on birds "down south".
What will be the situation in another ten years' time? Number of publications is by no means everything, it's the quality and value of the research that really count. In 1996 I hope to be able to look back on a decade of exciting, fundamental discoveries about seabirds, based on such "hi-tech" techniques as doubly-labelled water, satellite-tracking and a host of remote devices, as well as on good old-fashioned clear thinking.
Till then, enjoy seabirdingl