Forty-nine endangered African penguin juveniles were given a new lease of life today when they where successfully released onto Bird Island following a rehabilitation process.
The juveniles were removed as chicks from Bird Island, which forms part of Addo Elephant National Park, in mid October when extreme cold, wet and windy weather threatened their survival.
The harsh October weather event followed similar harsh weather conditions in June this year which caused the death of 1000 African penguins on Bird Island.
When extreme weather hit the island in October, South African National Parks (SANParks) flew the ailing penguin chicks off the island by helicopter to two rehabilitation centres for specialised care.
SANParks has also taken extra precautions in the meantime by providing artificial shelters for penguins and using material to drain nest sites to aid penguin chick survival.
33 penguin juveniles were successfully rehabilitated by Penguins Eastern Cape (PEC) in Cape St. Francis and another fifteen were rehabilitated by the South African Marine Rehabilitation & Education Centre (SAMREC) in Port Elizabeth.
The penguins, now about three months old, were taken to Bird Island by SANParks’ boat from Port Elizabeth Harbour early this morning.
After a three hour journey, they were released onto the slipway at Bird Island and soon joined the rest of the African penguin colony.
The juveniles are expected to do well as they are now able to forage for themselves. All released juveniles have been tagged and will be closely monitored by rangers on Bird Island to ensure they survive.
Meanwhile, care of the remaining penguin chicks at the rehabilitation centres continues with the aim of releasing them back into the wild in the future.
There are about 1300 breeding pairs of African Penguins on Bird Island and about 2500 breeding pairs on St. Croix Island, home to the largest African Penguin breeding colony in the world.
SANParks manages the Bird and St. Croix Island groups in Algoa Bay as part of Addo Elephant National Park.
South African National Parks