Written by: Alouise Lunch of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust
The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) was opened in Gansbaai on 26 February 2015, marking a monumental milestone for the conservation of the African penguin and other marine birds in the Overstrand region of the Western Cape.
A custom designed, world-class, marine bird rehabilitation centre, the APSS will provide temporary rehabilitative care to diseased, displaced, injured, oiled and abandoned marine birds, with a special focus on the endangered African penguin.
Marine bird rescue, rehabilitation and release form part of the management plan to conserve and maintain African penguins and other marine bird populations along the South African coastline.
Featuring a unique rehabilitation area with a specialised floor, laboratory and clinic, the APSS rehabilitation techniques will be honed to afford birds individual treatment with minimum stress. This maximises their rehabilitation and affords them the best chance of survival when released back into the wild.
Through continued research, education and awareness programmes, the APSS, a project driven by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) in conjunction with tourism partners Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Cruises, aims to mitigate the human impact on marine bird colonies.
Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, who spoke at the event and officially opened the centre, said in his speech; “Projects of this nature are about the common good – good for environment, good for the community and good for the country as a whole”.
“The support we received from our partners and affiliates, as well as the donations of materials from various corporates to complete the APSS have been a big vote of confidence in our work through the Dyer Island Conservation Trust,” said Wilfred Chivell, founder of DICT and APSS. “We are grateful to have sponsors and partners who recognise the importance of this facility in the conservation of our marine birds. We are the voice of these species that cannot speak for themselves.”
Among the guests attending the launch were the Overstrand Mayor, Nicolette Botha-Guthrie, and representatives from corporate sponsors Volkswagen South Africa and Grindrod Bank. Grindrod Bank have recently partnered up with Wildlands Conservation Trust to establish The Blue Fund, an initiative solely dedicated to fund coastal conservation projects. The APSS represents the first of such projects in the Western Cape.
“We are proud to invest in our ecological heritage in partnership with organisations that are actively involved in the conservation of South Africa’s rich natural environment,” said Mike Hankinson, Grindrod Ltd Chairman. “As Grindrod has its roots in the maritime industry, we are also keenly aware of the importance of conserving and protecting our marine resources and are therefore especially excited about our involvement with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.”