Penguins Go Home For The Holidays

Recently, more than 700 penguins were abandoned by their parents off the shores of South Africa, due to natural causes. The chicks were brought to SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) for care and rehabilitation until they were strong to be released back to the wild. IFAW Emergency Relief worker Lindy Oakes was part of the rehabiltation team at SANCCOB and is blogging from the field:

Lindy_oaks_web_jcb_ribbonLindy Oakes at SANCCOB in South Africa with a rehabilitated penguin.

The night the chicks arrived at SANCCOB late in October we were all prepared for them, we knew of their arrival and we sat around waiting, everything was set up in admissions and we were all in good spirits. It had been a while since a large influx of birds had arrived, so there was a buzz in the air.

By 21h00 when the truck arrived we all leapt into action. Boxes began to arrive in the admissions area and everyone assumed their roles. Most of the people were volunteers who had seen many oil spills and this was nothing new.

Chicks were separated into weight and age size - this was done by a quick peak into the boxes to determine ages, sizes. Then chicks were put into appropriate boxes with others their own size and the admission procedure began.

Myself and others weighed them and did the very basic admitting procedure to get them out of the boxes after their 4 hour drive and to a pen for the night. They were covered in fluffy down which got everywhere, under your nose, in your eyes and just floated around the room. They were dirty from being in the boxes but still very very cute. Our hearts went out to them.

Hours later we were still admitting and working on ‘autopilot’. Going through the motions one after the other, to keep myself alert, I began to name them. It was amusing and by the time I had reached ‘Happy Feet’ number 4 we had almost finished.

The 'Happy Feet’ title on the penguin card was awarded to one who looked most like the movie star (yes despite the fact that the movie star was an Emperor Penguin chick!!) For some reason there was one penguin chick who was called ‘George’ and it is amazing how many times I handled this bird again during my time there and at various stages of its rehab.

By 01h00 we had finished admitting. I went home exhausted.

The next few weeks were an endless round of unpacking boxes of fish, defrosting fish, loading it into feeding bowls and sitting in a pen feeding the chicks. They were the easiest things to feed! They couldn’t open their mouths wide enough or throw the fish back fast enough – it was such a pleasure to feed them. The only thing you had to ensure was that everything was off the ground out of reach. I quickly learned that if I sat down in the pen I was totally mobbed by lots of hungry beaks which turned it into total chaos with fish trashed and splattered.

Cleaning was as it always is a huge part of the rehab process, so lots of back breaking lifting of pens and scrubbing and cleaning, but also the sense of satisfaction when the birds could return to a clean pen. Believe me when I tell you that a little penguin guano goes a very long way!!

Also in this thread:
The Reality of Survival

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11 years ago

Wow, what a wonderful experience that must have been. How lucky to be out there actually working with the animals. You go girl! :)

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