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After a mystery oil spill in Algoa Bay in Port Elizabeth, SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) continues to wash and rehabilitate 30 endangered African penguins and four penguin chicks.


The birds were admitted two weeks ago from Bird and St. Croix islands after being rescued by rangers from the Marine Section of the Addo Elephant National Park (SANParks).

A team of about 15 staff and volunteers have been hard at work washing and rehabilitating the birds at SANCCOB’s seabird centre in Cape St. Francis. Almost all of the penguins have been washed, with the exception of two, which were too weak to be washed when first brought to the centre. After some tender loving care, they are ready to have the oil cleaned off their feathers; the first step in a rehabilitation process that lasts several weeks. For the next three to four weeks, the washed birds will continue to be fed, hydrated and swum to ensure that they regain the natural waterproofing of their feathers. The four African penguin chicks that were admitted as a result of their parents being oiled are responding well to the rehabilitation and now weigh more than 1kg each.

african-penguin penguin-oil-spill

Juanita Raath, Rehabilitation Coordinator at SANCCOB Eastern Cape, said that “the team is very pleased with how the birds are responding to the rehabilitation. Most of the penguins are very strong and in good condition. Now that we are nearly done with washing all of the birds, we hope to release the first group at the end of June, pending the outcome of their pre-release evaluation. The chicks, however, will still need to grow into young fledgelings over the next six to eight weeks before they will be ready for release back into the wild.”


Bird and St Croix islands collectively support approximately 60% of the endangered African penguin population in South Africa. The ongoing chronic pollution of seabirds is a major concern for SANCCOB and its conservation partners as it is estimated that less than 2% of the African penguin population remain in the wild today.

Donations may be made online towards the washing, rehabilitation and hand-rearing of these 34 endangered African penguins.

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SANCCOB is a leading marine-orientated, non-profit organisation which has treated more than 95 000 oiled, ill, injured or abandoned endangered African penguins and other threatened seabirds since being established in 1968.

Africa Geographic Travel