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Media Release: Penguins sent home to Bird Island

24 June 2011

Sixty penguins were released onto Bird Island yesterday while another 50 penguin juveniles were transported back to Bird Island by boat last week after 94 of the juvenile birds were transported off the island in May. The rescue operation aimed to ensure the survival of affected juvenile penguins following periods of cold, wet weather during which their condition deteriorated.

The majority of the rescued penguins spent a period of just over one month in the Penguins Eastern Cape rehabilitation centre in order to improve their body weight and condition before release. The penguins were initially tube-fed and given antibiotics if needed, then later hand-fed to increase their body weight. Eleven of the penguins were rehabilitated at the SAMREC facility in Port Elizabeth.

These successful rehabilitation efforts have seen the penguin juveniles pick up weight and condition, allowing them to fend for themselves once they are released back onto the national park’s island.

South African National Parks (SANParks), which manages Bird Island as part of Addo Elephant National Park, has intensified special management measures to address the global decline in African penguin numbers since their status shifted from vulnerable to endangered in 2010.

In anticipation of another cold front warning, Park rangers on the island will keep a close eye on conditions to determine if more penguins might be affected. Measures such as artificial nests, ground covers to combat muddy wet conditions and regular nest and condition checks are already in place to ensure the penguins survive adverse conditions.

Endangered roseate terns are also monitored by rangers, having just started their breeding season on Bird Island, one of the few islands where these birds breed off southern Africa.

There are currently about 2 300 breeding pairs of penguins on Bird Island and another 8 500 breeding pairs on St. Croix Island which also forms part of Addo Elephant National Park.

Issued by:       
South African National Parks          

Enquiries:       
Megan Tapli, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager, Addo Elephant * Camdeboo * Karoo * Mountain Zebra National Parks, Tel: 083 650 8649 or (042) 233 8609, E-mail: megan.taplin@sanparks.org

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