On 11 April 2016, 16 penguin lovers will set off for the sixth instalment of the Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week event. Walking – or waddling, like penguins might – from Gansbaai to Simon’s Town, this six-day walk is all in honour of the endangered, endemic African penguin. Along the way, we hoot, educate, and inspire. We want people from all waddles of life to pledge to make a small change in their daily lives that'll make a big difference in the long run.
Here are the penguin people joining the inspirational journey this year.
Leading the pack
Gabby Harris: uShaka Sea World Curator of Animal Behaviour Management and Guest Experiences and Penguin Promises Founder
Gabby has worked for the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR), which is the umbrella organisation for uShaka Sea World, since 1990. She was fortunate when starting with Sea World to work directly with the African penguin colony, where her passion for these incredible creatures began. Then, they were not endangered. Today, there are only 40 000 of these birds in the wild, compared to a very healthy population, about 100 years ago, of approximately 1.5 million.
Hayley McLellan – Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Campaigner and Waddle for a Week Coordinator
After a lifetime's work in animal care and behaviour, Hayley finds herself doing what she currently feels most passionate about – campaigning for human behaviour change for the benefit of the planet. Her main campaign focus is Rethink the Bag, which has a vision of a plastic shopping bag-free South Africa. Hayley crosses the Ts and dots the Is for the logistics of the annual Waddle for a Week.
Following the leaders
Cara Bloem-Balintulo: Old Mutual Finance Digital Marketing Consultant
Who is Cara Bloem-Balintulo? She is caring, appreciative, respectful and adaptable, loves taking on new challenges, and always gives 110% in everything she does. Cara is one of three waddlers representing Old Mutual Finance, which sponsors our Penguin Exhibit.
Colette Bodenstaff: uShaka Sea World Assistant Curator: Mammals and Birds
Colette has worked at SAAMBR for “donkey’s years”. She has a very keen passion for interpretation and art, and her creative force is very often called upon to assist to put together Sea World’s conservation education material. She is also the driving force from SAAMBR that assists in the KwaZulu-Natal ocean stranding network.
Elaine Bratt: Johannesburg Zoo Animal Keeper
Elaine tells us that working with beautiful creatures every day is not her job but, rather, her passion! “Every day I try and share this passion with as many people as I can. Reaching people and seeing them fall in love with the animals I love is magical and it makes me proud to do what I do. I am always looking for new ways to reach people and share the passion I have for animals and the responsibility we as humans have to look after and conserve them. I see the Waddle as a combination of meeting and interacting with amazingly passionate people, and joining them in reaching out to people to share that passion.”
Bandile Cima – Old Mutual Finance Legal Recoveries
Bandile is short in height but big in heart, highly ambitious and loves challenges! He works at Old Mutual Finance’s Legal Recoveries department as a debt review administrator, where he assesses legal documents from debt counsellors who act on behalf of clients. Among other duties, he attends telephone queries and liaises with debt counsellors with regards to payments. Bandile will be waddling from 14 to 16 April.
Leitza Gorman – Devon Zoo African Penguin Keeper
We are thrilled to have our first-ever international Waddler on the team! Leitza says: “One of my responsibilities as a penguin caretaker is to give daily talks to the public about penguins in the wild and the problems they face. I believe that when people hear information with the animals in front of their eyes they take more notice. I also believe that passion is contagious, which is part of the reason why I'd like to participate in the Waddle. I can only hope that by making my interest and concern for the future of the African penguin more apparent to the public that they themselves will feel inspired to care a little more.”
Vernon Hong: Two Oceans Aquarium Volunteer
After graduating from the Volunteer course in 2013, Vernon began his behind-the-scenes volunteering at the Aquarium. The more he saw of the penguins, the more he was determined to “wiggle”, or did he actually mean “waddle”, his way in to work alongside them. Although not a keen public speaker at all, Vernon realises that his commentaries during feeding time impart really important information about the species to the guests at the Two Oceans Aquarium. Vernon has been a participant of almost every last day of Waddle and this year we welcome him to the team for the entire week of campaigning.
Ayrton King: Two Oceans Aquarium Volunteer
After an impressionable behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium in 2013, Ayrton set his mind on completing the Young Biologist course later that same year. After qualifying Ayrton began contributing his time to assist with looking after the animals. He had the following to say in his passionate application: “After a few shifts I realised that I was an ambassador for not only the Aquarium, but for my generation and even our planet. I soon realised that I had a voice, I had the power and courage to change what others wouldn't and, more importantly, I had the power to inspire and educate. I am happy and proud to say that the birds (penguins) have changed my life, and have changed the way that I think with respect to my impact on their environment and our planet. Through my involvement with the penguins and staff at the Two Oceans Aquarium I have truly learned what it means to teach others to "conserve what they love, love what they understand, and understand what they have been taught. "
Lesley Labuschagne: uShaka Sea World Herpetologist
Before being employed to handle snakes all day, Lesley spent 12 years as a volunteer in the Sea World Education Department, where she spent many days stationed at the African penguin display educating guests. “I am passionate about conservation and think that a representative from a very different environment (of the reptile type) would be a wonderful addition to the team. I am fit and energetic and love the idea of educating the public regarding this endangered bird.”
Renée Leeuwner: Two Oceans Aquarium Assistant Communications and Sustainability Manager
Renée’s relationship with the Aquarium dates back to before its opening in 1995, when she was one of the first volunteers. Since she was appointed as permanent staff in 1999, she has worked in various departments within the Aquarium, including a stint as one of the penguin keepers. She was the logistic and backup person for the very first Waddle and again joined last year as media liaison for the Waddlers and the Two Oceans Aquarium.
Thabo Matlhakwane: Old Mutual Finance Legal Recoveries
Thabo is a humble, driven, energetic and ambitious 27-year-old man from Mafikeng in the North West Province. He relocated to Cape Town early in 2009 and started working at Old Mutual Finance in March 2012. Thabo is a soccer player and has represented Old Mutual Finance at the Fives Football League for the past two years. He joined the Old Mutual Finance Walking Team in January this year with the ambition to qualify for the 137km Parish Walk in the UK in June 2016. Thabo will be waddling from 11 to 13 April.
Louise Myburgh: SANCCOB Fundraising Assistant
Says Louise: “I have worked at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) for almost four years and it’s always been on my bucket list to do the annual Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week. I love walking with my two dogs so I hope I’ll be fit and ready for the adventure. I have always loved animals so this is the perfect way to raise awareness about the endangered African penguin and experience our beautiful coastline.”
Leandra Paverd: uShaka Sea World Animal Behaviourist
Leandra says: “I would love the opportunity to meet like-minded people and network with people from other facilities. I want to be one of the many along the Waddle raising awareness for the African penguin, to help it and other species like it. Every person’s efforts count and I would like to be a part of this initiative to change the minds of people to conserve the African penguin and encourage people to care about their environment.”
Ingrid Sinclair: Two Oceans Aquarium Digital Content Coordinator
“I’ve been following the Waddles closely since the very first one in 2011, and have always been inspired by the hit-the-road, heart-of-the-matter approach – these Waddlers are literally walking the talk! I am very excited to be able to contribute to this important mission armed with only my phone, the power of social media and a team of exceptionally dedicated people. I believe that humans can live in harmony with the natural world – and it all starts with making that one promise."
Presha Soogrim – uShaka Sea World Senior Guest Relations Guide
Presha’s application was full of good reasons to welcome her onto the team: “Some of the issues that I feel most passionately about, which affect African penguins, are marine pollution and overfishing. I have made it my personal mission to do my part to combat both these threats by organising monthly coastal cleanups as well as working closely with the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) to educate consumers, restaurants, retailers and fishermen about the need to purchase and harvest seafood sustainably.”
A big thank you to the sponsors who make the Waddle possible:
- Two Oceans Aquarium
- uShaka Sea World
- Old Mutual Finance
- De Kat Safaris
- First Ascent
- XXL Brands
- Badges Unlimited
- Better Earth
- SPAR Western Cape
Accommodation kindly sponsored by:
- Boulders Beach Lodge
- Grail Programmes
- Manor on the Bay
- The Muize
- Saxon Lodge
- Stanford Hills
- Surfer’s Corner
- Windsor Hotel