Twenty new African penguin chicks have arrived at SANCCOB over the past two days! They were brought in from the colony in Simon’s Town, South Africa having been abandoned by their parents. Simon’s Town is where you can find the famous Boulder’s Beach- one of the two mainland colonies of African penguins here in South Africa. The other is located two hours south of Cape Town at Stony Point.
When a new penguin is admitted to SANCCOB it is assigned a tag number. For example, the 1,009th African penguin of 2016 that arrived yesterday was assigned the number AP1009. When SANCCOB needs to determine the number of the next incoming bird, they simply refer to a board that displays
all of their admissions for the current year (pictured below).
Although the influx of abandoned penguin chicks has begun to slow down, this is the busiest time of year for African penguin conservation; making Mystic Aquarium’s support so important SANCCOB and their success with the Chick Bolstering Project (CBP). With so many references to this project in my blog, I wanted to take some time answering some important questions regarding the CBP.
What exactly is the Chick Bolstering Project? It is a collaboration between SANCCOB and many other organizations across the globe to provide assistance in helping to rescue, rehabilitate and release African penguin chicks that have been abandoned by their parents. Typically, this occurs November to January, what they refer to as chick season.
Why do the chicks get abandoned? The time period of this mass abandonment falls between the end of nesting season and the beginning of African penguin molting season. During molting season the penguins replace all of their feathers all at once in order to stay protected from the cold water in South Africa. In order to successfully go through this molt, African penguins must take in a lot of extra fish almost doubling in weight and size beforehand. Due to overfishing and climate change, African penguins must now travel farther and farther to get to the fishing grounds. As a result, African penguin parents have no choice but to leave their chicks behind who are unable to fend for themselves.
If SANCCOB sees any abandoned chicks within these colonies, they will bring them back to their facility to finish raising them. Just like this little guy who arrived on Wednesday.
What can the average person do to help? Unfortunately, the largest contributing factors to the decline of African penguins are all human-related. These include oil spills, pollution, overfishing and climate change. Since these factors are directly or indirectly related to human activity, it remains in our power to take action against them. There are simple things you can do at home or in your community to reverse these major factors:
• Reduce oil use: shut off lights, take shorter showers, carpool or ride a bike to work
• Properly dispose of trash: don’t litter, recycle, and participate in beach cleanups
• Only consume sustainable seafood: Visit www.seafoodwatch.org for more information on types of seafood you can eat that won’t harmfully impact the environment and others to avoid
• Support local facilities: Mystic Aquarium is among many local organizations that supports global conservation programs and initiatives
• Adopt a penguin chick: You can make a donation to SANCCOB that will support the rehabilitation and release of one of the African penguin chicks at the facility and in return you can name your penguin, will receive a package with an adoption certificate, photo, and a letter with the history of your adopted penguin.
And speaking of releasing penguin chicks, stay tuned for my next post as it will be coming with some very exciting news!