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US Aquarium Helps Facilitate Release of 23 rescued African Penguins, who were abandoned several weeks ago along South African Coast

African penguins are considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is on its Red List of Threatened Species

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Kristen Hannigan, senior trainer at the Georgia Aquarium, helps in the release of penguin chicks that were rehabilitated by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds at Stony Point near Cape Town, South Africa, Dec. 8, 2016. VOA

December 9, 2016: Twenty-three rescued African penguins that had been abandoned several weeks ago along the coast of South Africa were released back into the wild Thursday, according to officials at the U.S. aquarium who helped rehabilitate them.

Experts from the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, which treats threatened seabirds, transported the penguins in cardboard boxes to the coast near Cape Town, where they waddled on the sand before swimming out to sea.

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As many as 900 African penguins are rescued and need rehabilitation each year because of environmental factors such as oil spills, food shortages and habitat degradation, according to the aquarium.

An African penguin that was rehabilitated by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds is seen prior to its release at Stony Point near Cape Town, South Africa, Dec. 8, 2016. VOA
An African penguin that was rehabilitated by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds is seen prior to its release at Stony Point near Cape Town, South Africa, Dec. 8, 2016. VOA

Experts from the Georgia Aquarium, which has a colony of African penguins and a breeding program, have been traveling to South Africa since 2009 to help in rescue efforts, a spokesman for the aquarium said.

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The population of African penguins, Spheniscus demersus, has dropped 60 percent in the past 30 years. It is considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is on its Red List of Threatened Species.

The black-footed, medium-sized penguin is confined to the waters of southern Africa. (VOA)

  • Alison Manka

    Do we know why the chicks were abandoned? Was it lack of food, loss of parent, or loss of suitable nesting sites?

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Flamingo Chicks In South Africa In Danger Due To The Drought

SANCCOB is one of several centers across South Africa caring for around 2,000 chicks that were rescued from the dam. 

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Flamingo Chicks
A rescued lesser flamingo chick is treated by officials after being moved from a dam in the Northern Cape province to the SANCCOB rehabilitation center in Cape Town, South Africa Jan. 30, 2019. VOA

Rescuers are moving hundreds of dehydrated lesser flamingo chicks from their breeding ground at a drought-stricken South African dam to a bird sanctuary in Cape Town, to save them from death by starvation and lack of water.

Their birthplace, Kamfers Dam in the Northern Cape, is one of only three breeding grounds for the famously pink birds in southern Africa, the other two being in Namibia and Botswana, according to researcher Katta Ludynia.

The rescued chicks take three to four months to fledge, and it is not yet clear whether they will eventually be released back into the wild in Cape Town or transported back hundreds of kilometers to their home in Kimberley, she said.

Flamingo CHicks
A rescued lesser flamingo chick is fed after being moved from Northern Cape province to the SANCCOB rehabilitation center in Cape Town, South Africa, Jan. 30, 2019. VOA

“There are still several thousand birds breeding in the dam in areas that still have water,” said Katta Ludynia, research manager at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). “It now depends on the water levels whether these birds will pull through.”

Ludynia said the sanctuary was caring for around 550 chicks, most of them dehydrated when they arrived Monday after having been abandoned by parents who went off in search of food.

The chicks are being moved to the sanctuary by plane and road.

Flamingo Chicks
A rescued lesser flamingo chick peers out of a box after being moved from a dam in the Northern Cape province to the SANCCOB rehabilitation center in Cape Town, South Africa Jan. 30, 2019. VOA

SANCCOB is one of several centers across South Africa caring for around 2,000 chicks that were rescued from the dam.

Also Read: A Rise in 2 degrees Celsius In Global Warming Could Cause Droughts

Although it hosts the biggest population of lesser flamingoes in southern Africa, Kamfers Dam, north of Kimberley, is often dry and depends mainly on rainwater. It also gets some water from a sewerage works that releases water into its wetlands.

“The dam in Kimberley is so important because it is manageable, so we can secure the water level there. That might be the only site the flamingos can breed in southern Africa, if the drought continues in other areas,” Ludynia said. (VOA)