On 11 October organisations around the world celebrated African Penguin Awareness Day, a day dedicated to raising worldwide awareness about the plight of the endangered African penguin. SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) and South African National Parks (SANParks) celebrated African Penguin Awareness Day with a unique penguin festival and a star-studded benefit auction in aid of their African penguin conservation projects.
Hosted on African Penguin Awareness Day, the 13th annual Penguin Festival was held at the picturesque Boulders Beach penguin colony in Simon’s Town and kicked off with a much anticipated beach release of 12 rehabilitated African penguins back into the wild. Close to 800 onlookers witnessed the moving event as the penguins waddled their way back into the ocean. Most of these penguins were rescued by SANParks (Boulders Beach colony) and CapeNature (Stony Point colony) due to malnourishment and dehydration and admitted to SANCCOB’s seabird centre in Cape Town for rehabilitation.
Watch 12 penguins waddle their way to freedom in this video:
Following the release, festival goers of all ages headed to the festival area for various interactive games and displays including a penguin show, a live treasure hunt for kids and a South African Sustainable Seafood (SASSI) fishing game. Ending off the festival, teams Smoke, Sweat and Tears and Delicious Foodies from The Ultimate Braai Master sponsored by Pick ‘n Pay showed the crowd how to have a mouth-watering braai by only using SASSI-approved sustainable seafood ingredients.
The annual SANCCOB Benefit Auction was held the following week on 15 October at the Commodore Hotel in partnership with SANParks and ARG Design. Local comedian Nik Rabinowitz’s special brand of humour had the 120 guests laughing all the way towards raising much-needed funds for the conservation of endangered African penguins and endangered seabirds at the gala event. Auction items included a cricket bat signed by cricket legend Jacques Kallis, a signed Stormers rugby jersey, unique getaway experiences, a photo shoot with SANCCOB’s very own ambassador penguin and SANCCOB’s limited edition wine. Celebrity guests included Lindsey Muckle (winner of Strictly Come Dancing SA Season 4), Graeme Richards (local TV personality) and Michaela Strachan (international wildlife presenter).
Collectively, the Penguin Festival and the Benefit Auction raised R320 000. The proceeds will contribute towards the rehabilitation of approximately 2 500 seabirds at SANCCOB’s seabird centres and to maintain an oiled wildlife response team in readiness to respond to oil spills along the South African coastline. Funds will also contribute to the penguin monitor project in which SANCCOB partners with SANParks and City of Cape Town to deploy penguin monitors at the Burghers Walk colony in Simon’s Town. These penguin protectors perform key conservation-specific tasks within the 1.63 hectare penguin colony which includes rescuing penguins at risk and transporting them to SANCCOB for rehabilitation, maintaining penguin proof barriers, collecting penguin data and to manage co-existence between penguins and humans just outside the boundaries of the Boulders Beach colony.