Every sardine for penguins counts

Penguins regularly crop up on the “most popular” bird lists.

Their cute waddling gait, their curiosity, and their snazzy black-tie and tails plumage are really hard to resist.

Here in South Africa we are lucky to have a number of places where you can get about as up-close-and-personal with African penguins as it is possible to get. So much so that in the Cape Town suburb of Simons Town, you can literally swim in the waves with penguins from the Boulders and Burgers Walk colonies, while street signs on the coastal drive above carry warning for motorists to be aware of birds crossing the road.

And the colonies themselves are one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist attractions.

So it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that African penguins are endangered. But endangered they are with less than 18,000 breeding pairs remaining with a total population decline of 98 per cent in less than a century.

In the last 10 years alone, numbers have dropped by seven per cent.

Yet research shows that hand-reared African penguins fair as well as naturally reared chicks in the wild. IFAW has supported SANCCOB, one of the world’s top seabird rescue centres since 2000 when the MV Treasure oil spill threatened to decimate two of the most important African penguin colonies. In that spill nearly 20,000 oiled birds were rescued, cleaned and successfully released back into the wild, literally saving a species.

There have been no further major spills since then thank goodness, but at this time every year African penguin chicks are left to starve when their parents abandon them during the moulting season. This year has been particularly bad with over 600 fluffy chicks having been rescued so far from colonies around the coastline, and requiring round-the-clock hands-on care.

As many as 530 are being cared for at SANCCOB Cape Town while their centre at St Francis on the east coast, is caring for 80 chicks.

The condition of the chicks has been worse than usual as well, so it is expected they will have to stay in care for longer than usual before being released back into the wild.

All of this has put immense strain on SANCCOB’s budget, particularly its food budget as the price of fish has skyrocketed this season. African penguin chicks are voraciously hungry little critters and steady supply of sardines to hand-feed them is needed.

SANCCOB need help with their food budget and thanks to the generosity of IFAW’s supporters we’ve been able to keep sardines on the menu for the chicks but the season is just beginning and more help will be needed. In this season of goodwill please help us to assist in saving the African penguin.

Every cent – and sardine – counts.

--NG

Won’t you help save just one?

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Experts

Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy