Cape Town Invasives News

City now tracking invasive ‘hitchhiker’ crow’s movement between harbour and CBD

City now tracking invasive ‘hitchhiker’ crow’s movement between harbour and CBD

MEDIA RELEASE: 4 February 2015

The City is now able to track the movements of the invasive Indian house crow between the Cape Town harbour and the city’s Central Business District (CBD). Thanks to a partnership between the City’s Invasive Species Unit (ISU) and the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the City has been allowed access to the Cape Town Harbour. Read more below:

Fig 1: Invasive Indian house crow

The City of Cape Town’s partnership with the TNPA is already proving to be successful and shows that partnerships are crucial to improving the management of invasive species.

Over the past six years the City, in partnership with the National Department of Environmental Affairs’ Natural Resources Management Programme, has worked tirelessly to control the Indian house crow population and to prevent the establishment of new roosts. Since the start of the Indian house crow control programme in December 2009, the population has been reduced to less than 500 birds. They are regarded as one of the world’s 100 most damaging invasive species. They first arrived in South Africa in the early 1980s.

‘House crows are “hitchhikers” travelling by ship from their native range of India, Pakistan and Burma to countries where they do not naturally occur, such as Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. We have a better chance of winning the battle if we are able to prevent them from entering the country. The ability to monitor the birds from the harbour affords the Indian house crow team a better chance of detecting house crows that may enter or exit the country. This control programme is a true example of how partnerships are necessary for sustainability best practice,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe.

Indian house crows are aggressive, opportunistic feeders. They have a negative impact on indigenous bird and animal populations, agricultural crops and domestic poultry. They also pose a health hazard to humans as they are carriers of enteric (intestinal) diseases that are transmitted through their beaks or claws.

The species is listed in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Management Act 10 of 2004 regulations as category 1a, which is a species requiring immediate steps to be combated or eradicated.

‘Through continued collaborative efforts such as this, the target for complete control of the Indian house crow by 2017 is a very realistic and possible one,’ said Councillor Van Der Merwe.

Invasive Indian house crows should not be confused with indigenous Cape crows or pied crows, the latter of which are very common in many suburbs of Cape Town. The indigenous pied crows are the only crows with a white breast, whereas the indigenous Cape crow is black in colour and is larger than the invasive Indian house crow.

Fig 2: Indigenous Pied crow

All sightings of house crows, together with GPS coordinates, can be reported to