Saturday, January 26, 2008

Penguin Rescue

On the Southern Coast of Africa we have a delightful and unique penguin, found only here. It is called the African Penguin, or alternatively the Jackass penguin because of its call, it really does bray like a donkey! They are the only nesting penguins found on the African continent, and can be found from Namibia, down the Cape West Coast, and all the way round as far as Bird Island just off the coast near us in Port Elizabeth. (When we went sailing on Wednesday we heard of someone who takes people out to Bird island on whale watching expeditions, so hopefully we will arrange to go in the correct season, and we will be able to get some cool photos of the Bird Island colony.)

They are sadly becoming a threatened species, due in part to to overfishing and oil spills. The present population is only about 160 000 birds, while historically it was well over a million. On Dassen Island, off the West coast, the population has dropped from over a million to only 30 000 birds.

This is one factor which has led to the establishment of Marine Life Rescue Centres, and one of their primary tasks is to help birds who get coated in oil from shipping, or are injured by fishing nets etc.

At the lighthouse in Cape St Francis, the Adjubatus Centre has been established, and they are doing great work helping marine life in the area. To help with funding the operation, a coffee shop has been opened in one of the vacant lighthouse keepers houses (with automation, less staff are required to run the light.) If you are ever in the area, it is well worth a visit, the meals are good and it is great sitting next to the lighthouse enjoying the sea air and view while indulging in a wonderful cream scone and cup of coffee!

The birds are cleaned, fed, tagged and released.

I mentioned on the St Francis Daily Photo blog yesterday that we had a very rare visitor recently. A King Penguin, who resides in Antarctica, went badly astray and ended up on our shore, looking very bedraggled and sorry for itself! You can see here the incredibly thick coat of feathers that it moulted in order to cope with our warmer climate.

The folk at the rescue centre took it in and cared for it, and it was soon strutting around. When Max took this shot, the bird was waiting to be sent on the next ship back to Antarctica.

I phoned Jared from Ajubatus to get an update and he tells me it was decided that, since it had spent so much time in close proximity to the African Penguins, there was a danger that it could take back some bug back to the Antarctic population that they would not be immune to. So instead it has been sent to a zoo in Nebraska USA, where there is already an established population of king Penguins. Apparently it has settled in very happily there, and strutted straight out of its travel crate like it owned the place! So a Happy ending.

Speaking of happy endings, one of the great recent rescue stories involved a huge oil spill off Cape Town in 2000. There were so many birds saturated with oil that volunteers had to set up plastic swimming pools as pens, and try to clean them. Bearing in mind that these were wild and traumatised creatures with very powerful beaks, they did an amazing job. However, the beaches were a mess, 18000 penguins could not be kept for long under those conditions, so to buy enough time to get the environment cleaned up for them to return to, the birds were transported to PE, and released.

Because of their amazing homing instincts they immediately began the long swim back to the West Coast. Some were tagged, so South Africans were able to watch their progress on the news and held our collective breath, rooting for them to run the guantlet of seals and great White Sharks around Hermanus, and get home safely. It was a very successful exercise, without which about a big proportion of the existing birds left in the world would have been decimated!

So these rescue guys and girls are doing a great job, hats off to them!


Old Wom Tigley said...

This is a great post and one that I know will please many... Jane loves Penguins.. I'm glad the King Penguin survived.. and heres hoping the 'Jackass' do O.K. as well.

I'm sure you must have seen my favorite Penguin... It's a chocolate covered biscuit... and the slogon is this.. If you feel a little peckish....pick up a p...p...p... penguin.

Penguin - Perfect when you’re P... P... P... P... P.... peckish!

McVitie’s most popular chocolate biscuit bar, Penguin, is now 75 years old. One of the first biscuits to be advertised by name rather than company, its association with the distinctive birds (the packaging featuring a giant Emperor Penguin) is synonymous with the brand’s appeal.

Penguin was first produced in 1932 by William McDonald, a biscuit manufacturer in Glasgow, and became a McVitie’s brand when McDonald joined with McVitie’s and Price, MacFarlane Lang & Co and Crawford to form United Biscuits in 1946.

As well as the poplar milk chocolate product, Penguin is also available in delicious orange and mint flavours within variety packs. The perfect treat for any lunchbox.

Ha! I think millions of Brit's fell in love with penguins because of these adverts over the years... and of course that fine and very funny cartoon 'pingu'

I think a trip to pingu' land curtesy of google is in order this afternoon..

Have a great weekend
Peter is here as well and says a big thankyou and hello..

Suzi-k said...

hey tom, never heard of them, but will have to try one if we actually manage to make it to UK later this year!

dot said...

Great post and pictures. I really enjoyed it!!

imac said...

:) at Toms post.

what a set of fantastic photos and the story makes a great post.

Janet said...

I had no idea there were penguins in your country! You see how much you're educating all of us!! This was so interesting and I love the photos.