Wildfire threatened the lives of about 300 endangered African penguins in South Africa early Friday morning, forcing their emergency evacuation to safety.

Fires flared up in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Cape Town threatening SANCCOB, the specialist seabird rehab centre on the banks of the wetland, following the November 5th fireworks displays.

Authorities say they suspect a floating lantern caused the flare up.

Firefighters battled to contain the blaze throughout the night as heavy winds blew the flames closer to SANCCOB.

“When it became apparent that our premises were under threat, and therefore the lives of more than 300 penguins and other seabirds were at risk, we decided to evacuate,” said Francois Louw, SANCCOB Development and Marketing Officer.

“Staff and volunteers mobilised and the birds were quickly loaded into special travelling boxes and taken safely off the premises. By 11h00 most of the fires were under control and we were given the all clear to return the birds back to base and their swimming pools. About 126 of the birds were penguin chicks recently admitted after being abandoned in nearby colonies,” said Louw.

SANCCOB extended their gratitude to firefighters, volunteers and the local community for their support during the emergency.

READ: First South African penguin hatchling of 2015 released to the wild

African penguins are highly endangered and scientists have reported their numbers decline by more than 60 per cent in just three generations. The birds are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

IFAW has proudly supported SANCCOB, one of the world’s top seabird rescue centres since 2000 when the MV Treasure oil spill threatened to decimate two of the most important African penguin colonies. In that spill nearly 20,000 oiled birds were rescued, cleaned and successfully released back into the wild, literally saving a species.

–CP

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Article source: IFAW

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