As reported by Josh Davis, Mystic Aquarium’s Senior Penguin Trainer
Today I was assigned to Pen 3 which now has 50 African penguins in it! This is a number I am much more accustomed to having in a pen. As I mentioned previously, there are fewer chicks this year requiring rehabilitation at SANCCOB because there were fewer chicks overall in the colonies. This illustrates just how much the population can be affected on a yearly basis.
Another major difference I’ve experienced this trip while in Cape Town is the lack of water due to one of the worst droughts they have ever had. The two main dams that supply municipal water to the city of Cape Town and the surrounding areas are at dangerously low levels and strict regulations have been put in place to conserve water. At SANCCOB, the center is using “borehole water,” or groundwater, as much as possible to conserve the municipal water. Each person in Cape Town is expected to use no more than 87 liters of water per day for bathing, washing, and cooking purposes.
When I arrived I was excited to experience a South African summer with its sunny warm days, but once I was fully informed on the drought I began to hope for rain just as much as the people who live here. Water is an important natural resource, one that should not be taken for granted. Some of the rules put into place here are good guidelines for everyone to follow no matter where they are. Taking shorter and efficient showers, shutting off the faucet while washing your hands or brushing your teeth, and visiting car washes that only use reclaimed water are only some of the ways that we can protect and conserve water. Hopefully, Cape Town gets some much needed rain soon.
Each penguin has their own story and own reason for being at SANCCOB, but they all have the same end goal of release.
As I mentioned before, there are less chicks this year than usual due to the fact that there was not a strong breeding season in the colonies.
With a population of less than 35,000, these penguins have seen a staggering decline from a population that once stood in the millions.
So many penguins have been upgraded and moved closer to release that there were only eight penguins in Pen 2 this morning! Having fewer penguins in the pen does not mean we did not have a busy day. Me and another volunteer from the U.S. worked together and in addition to the normal schedule of fish, formula, and medications, we helped the rehabbers to weigh, grade, and obtain a blood sample from the penguins in the pen. If their feather quality, weight, and blood samples make the cut, these penguins will be upgraded from 20 minute swims to 1 hour swims!
I’ve been here for a little less than two weeks and already I’ve seen a lot of these penguins make major improvements. Many of the penguins close to release in Pen 3 today were in Pen 2 with me on my first day. It’s so rewarding to witness the penguins getting healthier every day and I can’t wait to get to see some of them get released!