A well-timed flight saw two endangered African penguins winging their home to Port Elizabeth on the eve of African Penguin Awareness Day – 7th October 2017. The birds caught flight down south after spending time in the rehabilitation centre at uShaka Sea World.
The penguins, named Gucci and Havaiana, arrived at uShaka Sea World within a week of each other after being found stranded on separate KwaZulu-Natal beaches. Gucci arrived from Port Edward on the lower south coast and Havaiana was found at Tinley Manor beach on the north coast.
Both African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) were markedly underweight on arrival but had gained 1.8kg and 2.8kg respectively since arrival at uShaka Sea World. In addition to being underweight, Havaiana also had an injury to his leg that had completely healed.
The two birds bonded during their stay at uShaka Sea World and would follow each other while swimming and waddling.
“Gucci is very good at keeping Havaiana in her vision and I have no doubt she will claim him as her lifelong mate once they are released,” said animal behaviourist, Kerry Cahill.
Both Havaiana and Gucci were given their flying colours by resident veterinarian, Dr Francois Lampen, which meant that they were fit to travel to Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in Port Elizabeth to begin the final stage of their rehabilitation journey, preparing for release.
At 4am on 6 October they were placed in specially designed transport boxes and departed for Port Elizabeth on the 6am flight out of King Shaka International Airport. Kerry travelled with the precious cargo to ensure their safe arrival at SANCCOB.
This special day is dedicated to raising worldwide awareness about the plight of the endangered African penguin.
African penguins (also known as jackass penguins for their distinctive braying call) are endemic to southern Africa do not call anywhere else home.
Unfortunately since the turn of the 20th century, the world has lost 99% of its African penguin population. The African penguin joins the list of species believed to be threatened by climate change and overfishing.
Juvenile penguins make their first journey to the sea alone. Instinctive cues which used to help them find food now put them in danger. When the birds follow their natural instinct to their fishing destination they find that the fish are no longer there because stocks have either collapsed or the fish have shifted their distribution eastwards, which means the penguins go hungry.