46 penguins returned to the wild

Juvenile penguins begin their swim back home to Bird Island after being rehabilitated – Photo: SANParks.

Forty-six African penguins returned to the wild earlier this week after months of rehabilitation in two centres in the Eastern Cape.

They were airlifted by helicopter off Bird Island in Addo Elephant National Park in early June as they were underweight and suffering from exposure to extreme weather. Treatment and feeding in specialised rehabilitation centres was the only way to ensure their survival.

The penguins were released back to the sea in excellent condition. Penguins Eastern Cape (PEC) in Cape St Francis released 36 penguins and the South African Marine Rehabilitation Centre (SAMREC) released 10 penguins. It is expected that the penguins will make their way back to colonies on Bird and St Croix Island in Algoa Bay as they have done in the past.

South African National Parks (SANParks) airlifted the birds to rehabilitation centres as part of its strategy to ensure the survival of individuals where a species is endangered. Special measures are undertaken in order to do this.

African penguins were reclassified as endangered in 2010 following the global decline of their population.

Addo Elephant National Park rangers have special measures to increase the survival of penguin chicks on the islands including monitoring the birds on a daily basis, providing artificial nest covers to shelter eggs and chicks from harsh weather and predators, plus removing penguins to specialised rehabilitation centres when needed.

The Algoa Bay islands managed by SANParks are now home to the world’s largest African penguin populations with 6 625 breeding pairs on St CroixIsland and 3031 breeding pairs on Bird Island.

(Edited)

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