Rescued penguins return to the ocean in Africa
Last Thursday morning, May 21st, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)-supported group SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) released 84 of their Namibian-guest African penguins back into the wild.
Over the past few weeks this group of African penguins have been experiencing true Cape hospitality at the SANCCOB Rehabilitation Centre in Table View.
The release took place on the Derdesteen Beach and it’s anticipated that these charismatic creatures, who are known to ‘fly through the water’, will swim back to their colonies off the Namibian coast.
The preparations for release included an early morning final feed and wash, in preparation for the long swim home.
At 10 am they were sprayed with a ‘pink spot’ on their chests for identification purposes and transferred into boxes in readiness for the final leg of their journey.
At 11 am the convoy left SANCCOB and made its way to Derdesteen Beach in Blouberg for the historic release.
At 11.30 am SANCCOB CEO, Venessa Strauss, gave the command, and the boxes flew open, penguins peered out, and one by one this group of survivors stepped out onto the beach. The call of the sea was strong and in no time at all the tightly bunched group headed out into the wide ocean, with the 100-strong crowd, who had gathered to witness the historic release, following their every movement.
The story of these penguins started four weeks ago when 129 dusty travel-weary African penguins made the news when they successfully survived a 19-hour road trip from far-away Luderitz in Southern Namibia down to SANCCOB in Cape Town.
They had been ‘oiled’ in the waters around the islands off the Luderitz coast. A Namibian rescue team, led by Jessica Kemper, managed to save them from certain death, when they rounded them up in boats and got them to the mainland where they were stabilized and washed. But that wasn’t the end of it, the penguins then had to make an epic journey down to Cape Town for the essential rehabilitation process which Jessica and her team did not have the capacity to perform.
127 of the original 129 penguins have made it through the intensive rehabilitation process. According to SANCCOB veterinarian Dr. Tertius Gous, the 2 birds died due to breast injuries, most likely sustained during the boat rescue.
But it’s good news for the rest of group. The endless rounds of medication, hand-feeding, tubed liquids, blood tests and forced swimming paid off and they were given a clean bill of health.
During the past four weeks these penguins have become international celebrities. The world press has embraced these plucky penguins and reports of their rescue and progress have appeared in many countries.
SANCCOB is an international leader in seabird rehabilitation and scientists have found that the African penguin population is 19% higher today due to SANCCOB’s efforts.
In 2000, IFAW and SANCCOB helped save an entire species — rehabilitating and releasing 19,000 African Penguins caught in the Treasure oil spill off South Africa.
The text of this report was filed by Margaret Roestorf from SANCCOB.