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The public release of penguins which took place last Saturday, 17 December was a moment for all to appreciate that the conservation of the endangered African penguin is the responsibility of everyone.
The previous Monday, 2 December, a crèche of African penguin fledglings on Dyer Island was released.
Rearing and releasing African penguin chicks is always an emotional journey full of fluff (literally) and proud “parental” moments.
From the first swim, when they frantically flap their flippers as if they were not made for swimming, to the independent “whatever” teenager attitude when they are ready to leave.
The conservation intervention of rearing abandoned chicks is necessary to arrest the further implosion of the population. It is however a costly and labour intensive exercise, with unknown outcomes. The fledgling penguins will, like any youngster, explore their options before they settle with a partner and start breeding, hopefully bolstering the natal colony where they were removed from.
This process of “finding their flippers” can take from four to six years. It is a great move towards a “kick starter campaign” but it is needed to add more than a drop of maturity to the mix.
Therefore, the rescue and release of adult African penguins is a conservation triumph.
To grow the African penguin population, it is needed to protect the adult birds. They need to go forth and multiply. Conservation efforts must be focused on repairing their habitat, preventing disaster like oil spills and disease outbreaks and acting fast to rescue adult African penguins in trouble.
The Dyer Island Conservation Trust, through the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary is committed to making a difference.
Conservation is about more than rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation is needed because Every Bird Counts, but it is but one small step in the journey to rebuild the population.
“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” - Mother Teresa.