Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Oiled Penguins Continue Coming Ashore

The Seli 1, a shipwreck from 2009 in Table Bay, started leaking oil again after a storm that took place over the last days of August. Endangered African penguins breeding on Robben Island forage for fish during the day in Table Bay. Petroleum is toxic to penguins.  It destroys penguin's natural waterproofing and so penguins try to preen it off, and in doing so ingest it. Exposure to oil can be fatal to penguins. There continue to be sightings of oiled penguins on Robben Island.  At the time of the oil spill, the EarthWatch team led by Dr. Richard Sherley and and assisted by BirdWorld Curator Duncan Bolton, Animal Demography Unit (ADU) University of Cape Town (UCT) postgrads researching penguins, and Robben Island Museum Environmental Officer were on hand to start searching for oiled penguins. Over the first week of rescue attempts, 194 oiled adult penguins were caught.  The oiled birds and any abandoned chicks found were put into boxes and sent over on the ferry to be cared for at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds SANCCOB. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, it has not been possible to catch all the birds that have been seen with petroleum on their plumage. Efforts have been made to catch and send as many as we could to get them to SANCCOB for treatment. Sadly, two penguins have been found dead on the island, covered in oil.
An oiled penguin  in the distance on Sandy Beach that was later caught by the EarthWatch/ADU team and is now one of many at SANCCOB.

The team making up more boxes...

and more boxes to transport oiled penguins.

Boxes holding oiled penguins to be sent to SANCCOB for treatment.

An abandoned penguin chick.

Boxes full of oiled penguins on the ferry from Robben Island to Cape Town where they are at the Nelson Mandela Gateway by SANCCOB.

Some of SANCCOB's dedicated staff even came out to Robben Island on the weekend to help the team catch more oiled penguins. There has also been assistance from volunteers from Robben Island community and abroad.
Nola Parsons, SANCCOB vet, inspecting a heavily oiled African Penguin. 

Monday 10 September, the Oceans and Coasts, Department of Environmental Affairs South African Government sent a team to further search inland areas of the island and found a further 3 more oiled adult penguins and 6 abandoned chicks. This brings the totals of those caught to 197 oiled penguins, and 28 associated or abandoned chicks.
Catching oiled penguins has taken place mainly  before sunset when penguins are coming ashore after foraging. Efforts will continue to catch the oiled penguins so they can be washed and rehabilitated at SANCCOB. For further news of the washing and rehabilitation efforts see SANCCOB http://www.sanccob.co.za/
The Robben Island Museum Environmental Officer, Mario Leshoro, sighted another oiled penguin on the coast today. A team of penguin researchers from UCT Animal Demography Unit will return to the island tomorrow to continue efforts to catch oiled birds so they can be sent to SANCCOB.

Further details of oily penguin rescue efforts that have taken place so far can be found at PenguinWatch http://penguins.adu.org.za/

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