Penguin Chicks

The adult African penguin moults annually to replace its rickety feathers with a new coat of waterproof feathers, which are crucially needed to regulate its body temperature when diving into the cold ocean for fishing. Prior to moulting, it fattens its body and remains on land for three to four weeks and wait for its new waterproof feathers to grow. In this moulting phase, the adults are unable to forage to feed their little chicks that have yet to fledge to fend for themselves. The chicks then become abandoned and face starvation unless rescued by SANCCOB and its conservation partners.

So far this moulting season, CapeNature has rescued nearly 400 chicks from the Stony Point colony in Betty’s Bay about 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, South Africa and the chicks, some as young as five days old, have been admitted to SANCCOB for care. The estimated time frame for rehabilitation of a single chick ranges between eight weeks to three months, depending on the age admitted and health condition.

Nicky Stander, SANCCOB’s Rehabilitation Manager, notes: “The chicks admitted this year are considerably younger than chicks admitted in previous years. Most of the chicks are between five days and two weeks old. This means that their rehabilitation period will be much more extensive and the costs to care for them will increase as a result. The team of staff and volunteers are working round-the-clock to ensure that each chick gets the best possible care.”

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Chicks are rescued in large groups by colony managers situated in and around Cape Town and are rehabilitated at SANCCOB’s centres in Cape Town (Western Cape) and Cape St Francis (Eastern Cape). With the support of conservation organisations such as Cape Nature, SANParks (Table Mountain National Park and the Marine Rangers section of the Addo Elephant National Park) and Robben Island Museum, these little guys have a chance at survival.

Once they reach fledgling age, at the correct weight, have grown waterproof feathers and are 100 per cent healthy, they are released back into their natural habitat. The release is done at established colonies such as Boulders Beach, Robben Island, Stony Point, Bird and St Croix islands.

It is estimated that only two per cent (25 000 breeding pairs) of the African penguin remain in the wild. With this rapid decline in population numbers, the African penguin is officially classified as an endangered species. SANCCOB, in in collaboration with its partners, are hatch abandoned eggs and rear chicks through the Chick Bolstering Project (CBP), a project that has helped to hand-rear and release more than 4,000 chicks since its inception in 2006.

Extensive research of the Chick Bolstering Project shows the survival rate of the rescued chicks is comparable to that of chicks reared in their natural habitat and the CBP is a vital intervention to conserve the dwindling African penguin population. The success of this project, however, is heavily reliant on donations. Essentials such as fish, medicine, veterinary supplies, incubator maintenance, staff training and equipment are needed to give each chick the best chance of survival.

SANCCOB is proudly supported by IFAW thanks to the generosity of our donors. Thank you for helping save the African penguin.

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Article source: IFAW

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