Tis the ‘chick season’ to be jolly

The SA National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) has launched a festive chick-adoption fund-raising campaign.

October to January is “chick season” at Sanccob when there is an influx of abandoned African penguin chicks admitted to its sea-bird centres in Table View, Cape St Francis and Port Elizabeth.

Public support through the adoption campaign is critical to help the non-profit organisation care for the more than 100 chicks already admitted this year.

The public are invited to adopt and save an African penguin chick and by doing so boost the population of this endangered species.

At R600, the adoption donation will go towards the cost of fish and medication, and enable the best care for the chicks before they are released back into the wild.

In return, the adopter can name the chick and will receive a special festive-themed adoption certificate with a photo and brief history of the chosen chick sent by email.

The African penguin is the only penguin species to occur naturally on the African continent and was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2010.

This penguin population faces many threats, but one of the most significant is the mass abandonment of chicks that hatch late in the season.

Sanccob spokesman Francois Louw, says, “Adult penguins moult once a year to acquire a new set of waterproof feathers. During this feather-changing process, they are unable to enter the cold ocean, so they fatten up to sustain themselves for three to four weeks of moulting. However, if they have chicks in the nest that have not fledged, there is the unfortunate potential for them to perish due to starvation.”

With the help of staff from SANParks, CapeNature and Robben Island Museum, these abandoned chicks are rescued and admitted to Sanccob’s sea-bird centres to be cared for throughout the festive season.

Mr Louw says the chicks admitted are younger and therefore smaller than in previous years; this means a longer and more costly stay in Sanccob’s care.

Sanccob’s intervention to save the chicks is aligned with its African Penguin Chick Bolstering Project to boost the wild African penguin population by rescuing abandoned eggs and chicks to hand-rear and then release them back into the wild to bolster penguin numbers.

The conservation intervention boasts an impressive release of almost 5 000 chicks hand-reared and released since the project’s inception in 2006.

The adopt-a-chick campaign runs until the end of December and adoptions can be made online at https://sanccob.co.za/adopt Any donation is welcome to help Sanccob with its rescue effort and to save the endangered African penguin.