I have been completing an internship with BirdLife South Africa, as part of the Groen Sebenza internship programme. It has given me an opportunity to learn more about my career options in conservation. I have learnt of the collaboration between different conservation organisations and met interesting people who play a vital role in conservation.

Personally I found BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force team to be the best experience. Under the mentorship of ATF team leader Bronwyn Maree, I have had been at sea on board various trawl fishing vessels, acquired seabird data collection and identifying skills and been involved in port visits. These duties represent routine work for the ATF, which contribute toward reducing seabird bycatch in marine fisheries. The model works as in South Africa albatross mortality has been reduced by 99% since the introduction of mitigation measures!

As part of the work with the ATF we have performed Bird Mitigation Plans for individual vessels, which helps the industry get the right combination of measures set up correctly to best suit their vessels. It has helped me understand the scope of the research conducted through the ATF and I have seen first hand the measures necessary to reduce seabird bycatch. At the same time I have been able to improve my marine research and report writing skills.

The internship programme has also broadened my contacts and network within the sector, as I have been able to work with other conservation NGO’s. In November I met the BirdLife South Africa team at the annual staff meeting held in Johannesburg - it was good to see the different fields of work that go into the conservation of birds in and around South Africa.

I have also participated in a coastal clean-up hosted by Woolworths and I enjoyed working with the children from disadvantaged communities and seeing them develop an interest in marine conservation.

Most recently I had an opportunity to spend just over a week on Dassen Island. It involved long walks on the Island, removing satellite tracking devices from penguins. It was an incredible experience and I enjoyed seeing the different species of cormorants currently breeding on the island. I am looking forward to another fruitful year with BLSA!

Below: Mbali on board a trawl vessel in South Africa