It’s 75 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze in Cape Town, South Africa; making my second day at SANCCOB even more enjoyable! I received a tour of the whole SANCCOB facility which helped me more completely understand how they operate. It’s amazing to me that I have worked with these animals for a few years now yet there is so much that I am still learning!
The main building of SANCCOB contains a few different spaces – there is a large area they call “General” which is the main hub to prepare and clean all the different equipment, materials and diets used throughout the day. On another side of the building you can find offices and education classrooms.
The main building also contains the area where new patients are admitted. Some of the more common animals that come through admissions are African penguins, cormorants, kelp gulls, and gannets. I even got a glimpse at a pelican today! Right next to admissions is where you can find the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Since many of the patients come in severely sick or injured this area is where they can provide critical care to their new admits.
In another section of SANCCOB you will find the Chick Rearing Unit (CRU). Here there are two sections: 1) an area where they have egg incubators which are currently developing four cormorant eggs and 2) an area where they raise very young chicks either hatched in an incubator or brought into their facility. In the CRU, staff and volunteers are working around the clock since young penguin chicks need to be fed every couple of hours. Once the penguin chicks are of a certain age and health, they are moved to pen 10 where I have been assigned the past two days.
The largest area of SANCCOB is of course the pen area. The pens are organized so that they house birds of similar health status. There are certain pens where they rehabilitate adult penguins. There are sections for the penguins that require more medical attention. There is also an aviary for some of the flighted sea birds that have been rescued. Once they graduate from the CRU or ICU, Pen 10 is where most of the penguin chicks are kept. The penguins in this area are in the process of losing the downy feather coat that they have when they hatch and growing new waterproof feathers, like this adorable chick below.
Because the chicks of pen 10 are at various levels of feather growth, they are split up into four subsections A, B, C and D. The penguins with the least amount of downy feathers are kept in A and are given time to swim each day. The others aren’t ready for swim time quite yet. We received great news in pen 10 today. About 25 of our chicks were upgraded to pen 2; having reached the required weight, feather grade and health status. And, one step closer to release!
SANCCOB also has what’s called Home Pen. This is the first pen you see when you walk through the door. It houses the penguins and other birds that were deemed non-releasable due to injuries or other setbacks they might have endured. These animals serve a vital role in conservation awareness. SANCCOB conducts tours and educational outreach with their permanent residents.
Whether you’re assigned to a pen, general, CRU or anywhere else it is always a busy and fast-paced environment when working at SANCCOB. It’s that kind of dedication that leads them to a very impressive 85% success rate! This number is representative of the percentage of animals that ultimate get released from their facility. It feels great to now be a part of that accomplishment.