Posted on the 1st November 2017

There has been wide-ranging reaction to the news that Dr Dieter Oschadleus is being retrenched and that SAFRING will in future form part of the Fitz. We post some of the recent emails on this matter to give clarity on the situation at hand.


Morning Anton

With reference to my comments at the Forum regarding funding for Birdlasser, read the email below.
It is a bad day for birding and research in birding that this kind of step is being taken.
Not to detract from the Fitz in any way, but to downsize an already downsized research department such as Safring, and to put it in an already overstretched Fitz setup, is a sad indictment on the level of national concern into funding real and vital ornithological research.
Birdlasser is a very functional nice to have, a properly functioning Safring is an essential.



Colin de Kock
P.O. Box 597
St Helena Bay, 7390

Dear ringers

Due to lack of funds I am being retrenched. My last day will be 31 January 2018.

SAFRING will continue under the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at UCT (where SAFRING resided some 26 years ago before joining the ADU). Dr Robert Thomson will oversee SAFRING in addition to his very full programme. The FitzPatrick librarian, Susan Mvungi, will help with the SAFRING database. Sanjo Rose will continue with her NRF internship until it ends at the end of March 2018, and Dane Paijmans will continue at SAFRING for the time being.

More details about the transition of SAFRING to the FitzPatrick will be provided over the next 3 months.

The Trust fund will continue to benefit SAFRING – thanks to all who have contributed to this fund. A special thanks to Ursula and Tom Franke-Bryson who have contributed very large amounts for many years.


Dr Dieter Oschadleus (or

Bird-ringing Coordinator, SAFRING
Animal Demography Unit tel: (021) 650-2421
University of Cape Town NEW fax: (021) 650-3301 (Zoology)
Rondebosch 7701 RSA

Dear All,
This is a very bad development. I seriously wonder if it as part of Max Price's decolonisation programme at UCT?

A suggestion is that the ADU in toto should move to UWC to get out of the totally negative UCT environment.

Perhaps someone should forwarded this to Max Price. I don't have his address.

Dr John E Fincham
Phones: 021-9194069 & 082 370 8499

I think it’s best to head this off immediately.

The restructuring of the ADU has nothing to do with the de-colonizing of education, and everything to do with the lack of available funds for the projects. For the last 10 years SANBI funded us sufficient to cover just below 50% of our functions and requirements, with the rest of the funding coming through grants from research organizations such as the JRS etc.

The reality is that there has been no proper funding for SAFRING for the last 10 -12 years, meaning that keeping it open has been at the expense of the ADU and other projects. We simply cannot do this anymore. SANBI can no longer fund the ADU in the manner it has done before, and SAFRING needs to have dedicated and substantial funding to operate. This funding needs to be ~R750k per year to be viable, and this is just not available at present.

The PFIAO has undertaken to keep SAFRING running as best as they can within the current economic constraints, and we thank them for this. SAFRING will most likely be operated on a much smaller scale to ensure that ringing is able to continue in the region, but without a full time coordinator. Without the PFIAO, the project would have had to be mothballed until funding became available again.

Michael Brooks
Animal Demography Unit
University of Cape Town
Tel: +27 (0) 21 650 4751
Mobile: +27 (0) 72 133 2005

Hi All

This has nothing to do with any scheme or agenda, but everything to do with the ADU’s lack of being able to secure funds to keep all projects going. It started with several key retrenchments a few years ago, and is continuing now. It is not an easy thing to watch, but it is what has been happening for over a decade (their financial woes). Lack of funding has necessitated a rethink of where programs could reside to save them, and after long deliberations Safring is being moved to the Fitz, where it was based before. It is a tragic scenario, for those involved, but has not happened overnight. BLSA, the Fitz, UCT, and ADU management have been trying to help for years. Not sure what people mean by down size either – historically Safring was run by a single person – even with losing Dieter, there will still be a full-time person (Dane), and intern (Sanjo), administrative help (Susan) and academic oversight (Dr Robert Thompson). We should be celebrating the season we had Dieter for, and committing to assist the new move as much as possible.

May I suggest the Forum consider a token of appreciation to Dieter for his amazing service.

Kind regards


Dr Mark Brown
Program Director
Nature’s Valley Trust

Honorary Researcher
School of Life Sciences
University of KwaZulu-Natal

Dear John

You could not in fact be farther from the reality. Usually, when academics retire, whatever research groupings they have built up have disappeared with them. UCT, and in particular the Dean of Science, Professor Anton le Roux, have recognized that the ADU and its projects have a value that transcends the university, and are in the national interest.

SANBI's support of the ADU ended in March this year. We have tried hard to fill the gap, and most of you would have received appeals from UCT's Development Office, the official UCT fundraising section. Unfortunately, we were not successful. These are difficult economic times.

Instead of closing the ADU's projects down completely, UCT has bust a gut to help ensure that they continue. The posts of Michael Brooks and Rene Navarro post will continue next year, but hosted in the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. The actual details of how it will operate are still being sorted out. As soon as this is clear, we will email all our citizen scientists. We are aiming at as seamless a continuation as possible. Sadly, it has not been possible to save the post of Dieter Oschadleus, and as he informed the bird ringing community, his last day of service will be the end of January 2018. Dieter took SAFRING from the mainframe age into the information age, and has made a massive contribution to bird ringing in South Africa, and in fact in Africa as a whole. In the circumstances, we are pleased that the FitzPatrick Institute will host SAFRING, and that Robert Thomson will be the academic leader.

My own position is that I have been appointed as Senior Research Scholar for a further three years, to the end of 2020. The idea is that I will retain a level of involvement in the projects, but I will not be the person ultimately responsible for them. I am hugely grateful to Peter Ryan for taking this on, and will give him, and the projects, the support I can over the next three years.

Thanks, John, for your input, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond.

Prof Les Underhill


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