01 March 2013

Working together for African penguins

Hayley McLellan

The Aquarium has a very successful working partnership with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). We employ its veterinary services on a monthly basis to ensure the best health for all our penguins, and work closely with it during our colonies’ breeding season in terms of the release of the chicks fledged from our Sappi River Meander beach exhibit.

As a way to be involved with the entire process from beginning to end, we offer the service of assisting SANCCOB with rehabilitated bird releases from our boat.

SANCCOB relies on dedicated volunteers for their support, and Two Oceans Aquarium for our boat. All photos by Two Oceans Aquarium

The birds are comfortably transported in SANCCOB release boxes. The trip from Cape Town harbour to Robben Island is short and we always choose the best weather conditions for release day. SANCCOB deals with all marine bird rehabilitation in our region, which includes species such as Cape gannets and cormorants. They are considered experts in South Africa when it comes to dealing with environmental oil spills affecting seabirds.

What a beautiful day to go to sea – the birds are calm in their transport boxes

As well as the Aquarium officially doing its bit for conservation of seabirds, the staff are also encouraged to get involved and feel the passion! We are so privileged to work in a profession that so many others can only dream of. Behind the scenes in an aquarium there are many intriguing interactions with other ocean species such as rays, sunfish, turtles, sharks, seals, whales and dolphins.

Even our skipper, Paul, gets in on the action

It’s an indescribable feeling to “set an animal free”. It sounds so clichéd, but experiencing something like this opens the heart and soul to wanting to contribute so much more to our natural world, which supports us every day. This is one of the best ways to remind ourselves to forget our daily worries and live in the moment!

Staff of the aquarium and SANCCOB work hand in hand to do whatever it takes to save every penguin!

These photos are from one lucky group of juvenile African penguins that were returned to the wild in February. These little ones were the abandoned chicks from late moulting parents who were not able to hunt at sea and return with bellies full of fish to rear their young. Without the expert intervention of SANCCOB, they would not have made it to the fledgling stage nor had the opportunity to continue the legacy of the only penguin species in Africa.

The African black-footed penguin is endemic to Southern Africa and also an endangered species. In the past 100 years their numbers have declined sharply, from approximately two million birds to a mere 60 000 today. For more information on this bird, please visit www.penguinpromises.com to see how YOU can make a difference.

It's a grrrrrreat sunny day for these juveniles!

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