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On 8th October 2016, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) and South African National Parks (SANParks) celebrated African Penguin Awareness Day by releasing 13 rehabilitated African penguins and hosting an unique Penguin Festival at Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town.

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On Saturday morning at 10am, a large expectant crowd gathered at Seaforth Beach to witness the release of 13 African penguins back into the wild. All of the penguins were rehabilitated at SANCCOB’s seabird centre in Table View (Cape Town) after being admitted for various reasons including malnourishment, injuries or due to abandonment.

Seven of the penguins were rescued from Betty’s Bay, two from Dassen Island, while the others were admitted from Fish Hoek, Lamberts Bay, Gordon’s Bay and Yzerfontein. SANCCOB volunteers and a few lucky members of the public got the chance to tip the penguin boxes to release the penguins.

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Nicola van Rhyn, one of the SANCCOB volunteers who got a chance to tip a penguin box, said, As a local volunteer, it really was such a special moment to be a part of the festival and especially to be given the opportunity to release two young penguins. Given the status of the African penguin, it was a moving experience and very rewarding to participate.”

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To the jubilation of the crowd, the penguins quickly waddled their way back into the ocean as a few resident penguins came to welcome the new group of penguins to the picturesque colony.

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Following the release, festival-goers made their way to the Simon’s Town Navy Sports Fields next to Seaforth Beach for the start of the much-anticipated Penguin Festival. This year’s event included three big tented areas with live music by The Professors, an array of children’s entertainment, food trucks, craft beer, wine-tasting and marine exhibitions by BirdLife SA, the City of Cape Town Environmental Education Trust, Two Oceans Aquarium, South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), SANParks and SANCCOB.

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Festivalgoers were also treated to a special cooking demonstration by SASSI Braai Ambassadors, teams ‘Rust and Dust’ and ‘Smoke, Sweat and Tears’, who used only SASSI-approved ingredients to cook up a tantalising lunch course for eight lucky winners on the day. SANParks’ Honorary Rangers were also on hand to braai their hugely popular boerewors rolls in aid of the festival.

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SANCCOB and SANParks extends a special thank you to the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, managed by Nedbank Private Wealth, for sponsoring the 2016 Penguin Festival and making the event a resounding success.

African Penguin Awareness Day is dedicated to raising worldwide awareness about the plight of the endangered African penguin, the only penguin endemic to the African continent. With the help of partners such as SANParks, SANCCOB admits close to 1,500 African penguins (and 1,000 other seabirds) for rehabilitation to its centres and releases them back into to the wild to boost the wild African penguin population. Alarmingly, only 2.5% of the African penguin population remain in the wild today.

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Together, SANCCOB, SANParks and their partners in conservation are at the forefront of saving the charismatic African penguin species. All proceeds from the festival are donated to SANCCOB in support of their African penguin conservation work.

7 ways you can help to conserve African penguins:

1. Adopt and name an African penguin 

2. Report injured penguins and/or oiled birds to SANCCOB by calling (021) 557 6155 (normal work hours) / 078 638 3731 (after hours & weekends) or to SANParks on 021 786 2329 (office hours) or 0861 106417 (24-hour emergency number)

3. Donate to SANCCOB online or see what items are needed on SANCCOB’s Wish List.

4. Visit SANCCOB’s online shop for penguin goodies.

5. Volunteer at SANCCOB by emailing volunteers@sanccob.co.za

6. Start your own fundraising campaign for SANCCOB with Givengain.

7. Raise funds for SANCCOB by simply swiping your MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card.

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African Penguin Awareness Day is also being celebrated at a second penguin release and festival at the Stony Point penguin colony in Betty’s Bay on 15th October 2016. Hosted by SANCCOB and CapeNature, the event includes a snoek braai competition, community market, a puppet show, educational activities and various marine exhibitions, all in the name of the endangered African penguin.

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