VCA SFVS service coordinator Naomi recently spent time in Africa helping to rehabilitate oiled penguins. Here, she shares some information on her work with the penguins, along with some really neat photos. Thank you, Naomi, for your dedication to these special creatures and for sharing your story.
African penguins are on the endangered species list and are projected to be gone from the wild within the next 10 years if the current trend progresses. I have been volunteering with African penguins at the California Academy of Sciences for the past five years and have loved penguins for as long as I can remember, so this has been a heartbreaking fact to face.
There is an incredible organization in South Africa by the name of SANCCOB, which has been responsible for boosting the population of African penguins an additional 19% higher than it would be without SANCCOB’s existence.
They achieve this through medical rehabilitation of ill, injured and oiled birds, as well as through a specialized project for raising abandoned chicks. They led the largest animal rescue event in history by successfully rehabilitating and relocating 40,000 penguins during the Treasure oil spill of 2000. It has been my dream for years to be a part of SANCCOB’s amazing effort to save African penguins from extinction. With the help of my beloved friends, family and coworkers, I successfully raised enough money to make it to South Africa for an internship at SANCCOB.
I spent the last three months doing the most emotionally and physically difficult work I have ever done, yet it has been the most rewarding experience I have ever had. The day after I arrived in South Africa, a tragic oil spill brought in 400 oiled penguins. I was quickly trained on rehabilitating them and was in charge of pens with anywhere from 20 to 70 penguins daily.
Over my three months of being at SANCCOB, I had three opportunities to be a part of releasing the penguins I had helped rehabilitate back into the wild.
Although the population of African penguins continues to decline due to overfishing, oil spills and climate change, SANCCOB continues to do everything within their power to keep them afloat. I was amazed to see how the incredible staff members give their all on a daily basis, no matter how overwhelming or disheartening penguins’ status in the wild is. Being a part of SANCCOB was a truly magical experience, and I feel very grateful for having had the opportunity to go there.