First of rescued African penguin eggs have hatched

SANCCOB_chicks

This update is sent courtesy of Francois Louw, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) Development and Marketing Officer.--CP

The first four endangered African penguin eggs of the year have hatched at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), the non-profit seabird centre in Cape Town, South Africa, which is supported by IFAW.

SANCCOB staff have nicknamed this period “egg-season,” because there is an influx of African penguin eggs, rescued from nearby colonies by Penguin Rangers from the South African National Parks (SANParks) and CapeNature during this time.

There are 29 penguin eggs in the incubators at the moment, with more rescued eggs expected to arrive right through July this year.

These eggs have either been abandoned by their parents, or the parents were found to be nesting in areas outside of the protected colony, putting both the adults and their chicks at risk. The parents are then relocated to the safety of the colony and the eggs are brought to SANCCOB to be hatched and raised.

For the next three months, these penguin chicks will receive extra special treatment from SANCCOB staff, interns and volunteers until, as juvenile penguins, they are deemed fit and healthy enough for release back into the wild.

A newly hatched African penguin chick weighs approximately 70 grams and is fed six times a day with a special formula made up of blended fish, water and a variety of vitamins, by staff members in SANCCOB’s specialised Chick Rearing Unit (CRU).

Once these penguins are at a fledging age (approximately three months old), healthy, weighing roughly 2.6kg, and with waterproof feathers, they will receive the final nod of approval from SANCCOB’s veterinary and rehabilitation team. They will then be released back into a penguin colony by SANCCOB staff and volunteers with the help of the Penguin Rangers.  

The African penguin, one of South Africa’s most iconic species, was classified as endangered in 2010. There are only roughly 25 000 breeding pairs left in the wild, leaving the population at around 2.5 percent of the estimated figure of one million breeding pairs recorded in the early 20th century.

With the rapid decline of this species, the survival of each individual penguin is vital – even more so given that breeding adult penguins successfully raise, on average, two chicks a year.

SANCCOB’s work rescuing and hatching endangered African penguin eggs forms part of the Chick Bolstering Project (CBP), a multi-partner project, which has managed to hand-rear and release nearly 4 000 chicks back into the wild since it started in 2006.

Independent research confirms that the survival rates for these hand-reared penguins are similar to that of naturally-reared birds, making it an effective conservation intervention.

SANCCOB depends on the support of organisations like IFAW to be able to raise these African penguin chicks.

--FL

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