A brave rockhopper penguin, that you named EL, survived a 2 500km journey to be stranded on the coast of the Eastern Cape. Together with the East London Aquarium and SANCCOB, this little survivor was flown to Cape Town, rehabilitated and took a roadtrip to the Two Oceans Aquarium, where she was introduced to her new penguin family about a month ago.
We know you've been following her "Rockhopper Tale" closely, and now we want to show you the latest development in young EL's adventure - learning to swim in our big Kelp Forest Exhibit with her new friends.
We thought it was about time EL the penguin had a chance to swim with the other rockhoppers in the Kelp Forest Exhibit - but first we had to be sure she was strong and healthy enough.
EL arrived at the Two Oceans Aquarium a little underweight and with a possible bone illness affecting her feet. She had already received excellent care at SANCCOB, now it was time for us to make sure EL was ready to make a little splash!
Much to our joy, EL quickly gained weight, and her bone illness showed no signs of returning! She passed all her medical and fitness tests and was finally ready to join the other rockhoppers for a swim in the big Kelp Forest Exhibit.
Follow EL up to the Aquarium's rooftop as she nervously follows her ner penguin family into the water. Remember: EL is still a juvenile, so you can spot her amongst the crowd as the only penguin without yellow feathers (plus she waddles like she wants to stomp the yard):
"Rockhopper Tales" will be taking a short break - but we'll be sure you bring you even more of EL's adventures in the future!
Did you miss the previous Rockhopper Tales?
If you want to see EL's origin story, you can find the first edition of Rockhopper Tales here. Also, check out the first three videos here:
- Part 1: A penguin flies to Cape Town
- Part 2: A rocky arrival at SANCCOB
- Part 3: Penguin takes an Aquarium roadtrip
Why is EL here? Why wasn't EL released?
Northern rockhopper penguins are native to several sub-Antarctic islands thousands of kilometres from the South African mainland, and it is unlikely that a penguin this young, still with part of its chick "fluff" and not fully coated in waterproof feathers, could have survived the swim. What is more likely, is that this penguin was poached by fishermen nearer to its colony and kept on the boat as entertainment, then thrown overboard when the boat neared South African waters to avoid being fined by the authorities.
It is difficult to prove that poaching and unethical fishermen are responsible for the stranding of these rockhopper penguins, but we do know for a fact that some of them have been in the hands of poachers. For example, Teddy the golden oldie of our rockhoppers was rescued with his feet tightly bound together by wire. Could EL's foot injuries also be the result of being bound up? We'll never know.
The nearest northern rockhopper penguin colonies to the Cape are those on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island - both more than 2 500km away. But, this distance is not the reason this young penguin cannot be returned home. We cannot be certain which colony she is from, so releasing her into the wild means we could potentially contaminate the gene pool of the wild colonies. It could also mean that pathogens not found around these islands, but which are present in South Africa's coastal waters could be introduced, further endangering the wild penguins. This, unfortunately, is the fate of all sub-Antarctic penguins that reach the South African coast.
However, EL can still have a fulfilling life here at the Two Oceans Aquarium, where she is able to live amongst the largest colony of northern rockhopper penguins in South Africa, be cared for by our team of professionals, loved by thousands of visitors and help contribute to veterinary and biological research.
Most importantly, EL can now be an ambassador for the ocean - we hope this story makes you fall in love with the seas and the life they contain just a little bit more.