Second group of penguins released after oil spill

2016-09-21 06:00
The second group of penguins were released by SANCCOB and SANParks after the oil spill that occurred in late August.                                      Photo: SUPPLIED

The second group of penguins were released by SANCCOB and SANParks after the oil spill that occurred in late August. Photo: SUPPLIED

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THE Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and the Marine Rangers from the Addo Elephant National Park – South African National Parks (SANParks) - have released 72 rehabilitated African penguins back into their colony at St Croix Island last week, following a recent oil spill in Algoa Bay.

This is the second group of penguins released by SANCCOB and SANParks after the oil spill that occurred in late August 2016. SANCCOB’s centre in Cape St Francis admitted a total of 92 oiled African penguins and 61 penguin chicks with the help of SANParks and the NSRI.

A smaller group of 14 rehabilitated penguins were also released at St Croix Island after being approved for release by SANCCOB’s team.

Juanita Raath, SANCCOB’s Rehabilitation Coordinator in the Eastern Cape, said, “We are extremely happy to release such a big group of penguins back into the wild today and give these individuals a second chance at life. With the current South African population numbers at just over 19 000 breeding pairs, saving each individual penguin is crucial to the survival of the species.

“We are thankful to all the partners involved in making this a successful rescue operation and to all the volunteers and supporters for standing side-by-side with us throughout the rehabilitation process.”

SANCCOB’s team of staff and volunteers washed the first penguins on Sunday, August 21, with the last bird being washed on Thursday afternoon, August 25. The entire washing and rinsing process of each bird can take up to two hours, followed by a comprehensive rehabilitation programme.

Penguins are only released once SANCCOB’s staff have determined that their feathers are waterproof, their blood tests do not show any signs of infection and that they weigh at least 2.8 kilograms.

Each penguin also receives a special transponder micro-chip that allows conservation staff and researchers to effectively monitor the birds after being released.

A number of washed penguins are still in SANCCOB’s care together with more than 60 penguin chicks that still need to grow into healthy juveniles before they can also go back into the wild.

The African penguin is endemic to Southern Africa. It was once one of South Africa’s most abundant seabirds, but has suffered a massive population decline. Algoa Bay, where St Croix Island is situated, is home to about 60% of the world’s African penguin population.

The exact cause of the oil spill is still to be confirmed by authorities investigating the matter.

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