Saturday, December 4, 2010



Abandoned African penguin being hand-reared at SANCCOB
(Photo IKFAW/Trevor Samson)

The African Penguin SSP is asking your institution to consider making a donation to SANCCOB to help offset the cost of hand rearing these abandoned chicks and to purchase satellite trackers. The African penguin is now an ENDANGERED species and hand rearing the chicks will ensure their return to the wild. This request is time sensitive as the order for the trackers needs to be placed imminently.’

Zoos and aquaria in the USA are being offered a unique opportunity to contribute towards key research which could lead to saving the African penguin species.

For US $3,500 you will get the Naming Rights to one of 10 trackers and will contribute towards the rescue, rehabilitation and release costs of 415 African penguin chicks.

Currently almost 1% of the entire African penguin population is currently living in SANCCOB’s facility. Over the past two weeks a total of 415 African penguin chicks abandoned by their moulting parents have been admitted to SANCCOB in Cape Town from Stony Point and Dyer Island wild colonies. As this proposal is winging its way across the Atlantic Ocean to you, the team is admitting a further 18 chicks from Dyer Island bringing the total to 433 chicks.

It is hopeful that at least 75% of these chicks will successfully complete their 6-week rehabilitation at SANCCOB and be released back into the wild.

What is the aim of the African Penguin Chick Bolstering Project?

a) Chick rearing component
If there had been no intervention it is almost certain that these chicks would have died due to dehydration, heat exhaustion and starvation. The African Penguin Chick Bolstering Project (APCBP) was initiated to investigate the efficacy of using hand-reared chicks, abandoned by their parents in the Western Cape (e.g. Parsons and Underhill 2005), to bolster declining colonies as well as to develop the infrastructure and knowledge required to undertake the establishment of an entirely new African Penguin colony on South Africa’s south coast. Your support will assist the Chick Bolstering Project partners to cover veterinary, nutritional and other costs associated with rearing the chicks currently housed at SANCCOB, as well as transport and support costs for colony managers who rescued these birds.

b) Research component
It is crucial that we understand the mechanisms that either lead fledglings to return to their natal colonies (defined here as the colony in which they hatched) or to disperse to other sites as breeding adults. Unfortunately, the period of the African Penguin life cycle from fledging until they return to breed at around three to four years old (Whittington et al. 2005) is poorly studied and large gaps exist in our knowledge. The aim of the proposed study is to collate and analyse the available data on African Penguins during this period, to help understand at what age penguins develop the knowledge of what will be their breeding colony and how this decision may relate to the conditions they experience during their early years.

These chicks present an unprecedented opportunity to implement a tracking project within a controlled environment, which will enable the African penguin community in Southern Africa to answer crucial questions which will contribute towards saving the species. Six birds will be fitted with GSM/VHF loggers (or Satellite transmitters – PTTs). Ecotone® Duck EP-10 Solar GPS-GSM loggers have provisionally been identified as suitable for the task.

A detailed project proposal can be forwarded on request.

Implementation and Partners

These penguin chicks form part of the APCBP, which is a collaborative project, led by the Bristol Zoo (UK), administered by SANCCOB in South Africa and local partners include the Department of Environmental Affairs, CapeNature, Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town, Robben Island Museum and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The chicks are being hand-reared by SANCCOB.

In addition to these core contributors, the project needs the support of the following partners: CapeNature, SANParks, BirdLife South Africa, Oceans and Coasts (DEA), Marine and Coastal Management (DAFF), Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (Namibia), Robben Island Museum, Overstrand Municipality, South African National Biodiversity Institute – Approval and permitting of the research project, logistics, access to breeding colonies, and data sharing, analysis and research collaboration, leading to joint publication of co-authored papers.
The research component of the project will be managed by the Animal Demography Unit (ADU), Department of Zoology at the University of Cape Town and the Marine Research Institute (MA-RE), in conjunction with SANCCOB and the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation.


There is an urgent need for a minimum of 6 satellite trackers to be deployed on the hand-reared chicks at SANCCOB, prior to their release, in order to capitalize on the opportunity which currently presents itself. Financial commitment is required within the next two weeks; as the order for the devices needs to be placed imminently, to allow time for transport and customs clearance.

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