Bittersweet “Great Penguin Rescue” in Africa

Dear friends and supporters,

Many of you may remember that IBRRC in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and in cooperation with The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) managed the June 2000 Treasure oil spill in South Africa where we cared for over 20,000 live oiled African Penguins.

It was truly an international collaboration with many of our IBRRC staff and response team members playing key roles in the management of the spill. I personally was the manager of the center we set up in Salt River, a suburb of Cape Town, SA. This is where the bulk of the oiled penguins – 18,000 out of the 20,000 that were in care.

Early on we realized that we needed more experienced supervisors to help manage the care of massive numbers of penguins so we called upon zoos and aquariums from around the world to lend penguin specialists to us. To our delight the zoos came to our rescue and sent us some amazing people to help us in our task of getting these penguins rehabilitated.

One of those people was Dyan deNapoli who has written her account of the Treasure spill in a new book called “The Great Penguin Rescue”. Please consider purchasing and reading her account of the spill.

One final note- The African Penguin is currently experiencing a dramatic decline in numbers that started before the Treasure spill but has since plummeted even further. This decline is so dramatic that the species is quickly becoming endangered and there is great international concern that it could become extinct in the wild in a very short time. Why? Climate change, over fishing, ocean pollution and oil spills! That’s the bottom line.

SANCCOB is now actually raising many of the chicks from Robben Island, one of the key penguin colonies in South Africa, because the parents have to travel too far to find available fish due to water temperature and current changes. Therefore the chicks are left to die. That is how serious this is and for those of us who personally washed and cared for many of those birds this is devastating and heartbreaking news to say the least. So again, please consider purchasing Dyan’s book and consider supporting the organizations like SANCCOB that are doing their best to help the African Penguin in its time of need.

Thank you!

Jay Holcomb
Executive Director, IBRRC