The Blue Fund celebrates World African Penguin Day and pledges support to SANCCOB’s African Penguin Chick Bolstering Project

By Buyi Makhoba

The African Penguin population is in a critical decline, with approximately 2.5% of the numbers recorded in the 1930’s remaining today. This iconic species is endemic to the coastal region of Southern Africa and is a key indicator of the health of our oceans and fish stocks.

There are a number of threats facing the population with one of the most significant being the abandonment of chicks that hatch late in the season. Adults abandon their young when they start their annual moult and replace their worn-out feathers with a new set of waterproof feathers. During this 3-4 week moulting process, they are unable to hunt for fish or feed their young. As a result, the chicks that have yet to fledge are abandoned.  The mass abandonment of chicks has been a recorded phenomenon since the 1930s and is influenced by factors such as fish availability, climate change and health-related issues amongst adult penguins.

Wildlands and Grindrod Bank (through their CSI initiative, the Blue Fund) have partnered with SANCCOB to assist their efforts to mitigate the effects of chick abandonment and rescue the 300 - 400 penguin chicks that are expected to be abandoned during ‘chick season’. Once the chicks have been rehabilitated and grown their juvenile plumage, they will be released back into the wild.

“SANCCOB and their partners in the sector, have established the African Penguin Chick Bolstering Project. This project is recognised globally as one of the most successful conservation initiatives to reverse the decline of the endangered species”, explained SANCCOB’s Fundraising and Marketing manager, Francois Louw.

“Independent research has confirmed that the wild African penguin population is 19% higher directly due to SANCCOB’s conservation efforts, with the organisation having successfully released more than 4000 chicks back into the wild since the project’s inception in 2006”, said Louw.

With the nesting season taking place from November to January, SANCCOB and the Blue Fund will be running an “Adopt a Chick” campaign during that same period. The campaign aims to raise sufficient funds to cover the operational costs associated with the chick bolstering project and other rescue and rehabilitation activities. In addition, the campaign hopes to raise awareness about the plight of this iconic bird and the health of our oceans.

How to Get Involved
The ‘Adopt a Chick’ campaign encourages individuals to adopt an abandoned African penguin at a cost of R600. “By adopting a chick, you will be allowed to name it and receive an adoption pack via email which includes a certificate of adoption and a photograph of the chick,” said Mark Gerrard, Wildlands’ Strategic Manager: Community Conservation. “In order to support this crucial initiative, the Blue Fund will match any contributions made by the public to the ‘Adopt a Chick’ campaign, effectively doubling the funds received and doubling SANCCOB’s vital conservation efforts,” Gerrard concluded.

Thank you to Grindrod Bank for their unwavering support for marine conservation and without their support, initiatives such as these would not be possible.

For more information visit www.wildlands.co.za