More than 60 African penguins drenched in oil are being washed and medicated, with 100 expected to be rescued in the next few days, after an oil spill off the coast of Port Elizabeth. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – Drenched in oil, more than 60 African penguins - on the endangered species list - were rescued by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob), with another 100 expected to be rescued in the next few days, after an oil spill in Algoa Bay over the weekend.

Sanccob spokesperson Ronnie Daniels said yesterday that a vet and staff from their Table View centre travelled to the Eastern Cape on Wednesday to help with washing the oil-coated seabirds and to provide urgent medical assistance.

By the end of the day, more than 60 African penguins - excluding chicks and eggs - were on their way to the Port Elizabeth centre.

“Another 100 will potentially be rescued in the next few days. We are working with SANParks, our conservation partners, who are monitoring the affected area in the Eastern Cape, and rescuing birds for admission to our Port Elizabeth facility,” Daniels said.

About 200 to 400 litres of oil was spilt during the refuelling of the MV Chrysanthi S by SA Marine Fuels near the Port of Ngqura, 20km north-east of Port Elizabeth, on Saturday.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff), SANParks and Sanccob were co-ordinating their response to the oil spill. 

Poor weather conditions following the spill hindered Deff and SANParks from carrying out an immediate wildlife assessment, but they have since managed to evaluate the impact, and continue to seek out and rescue wildlife affected by the spill.

“So far, Sanccob in Port Elizabeth has admitted 41 oiled African penguins; a Cape cormorant and a Cape gannet, and will receive another 23 oiled African penguins, six chicks and two eggs from St Croix Island later today (yesterday).

“Sanccob anticipates about 100 oiled African penguins to be admitted over the next two days from Bird Island and St Croix, which are both of high biodiversity value,” Daniels said.

Sanccob’s preparedness and response manager, Christian Triay, said they were doing everything possible to stabilise and clean the affected wildlife.

“SANParks remains vigilant in monitoring Bird and St Croix islands, and the surrounding areas,” he said.

Triay said that the washing and subsequent rehabilitation period of the oiled seabirds at the Port Elizabeth facility would be about four weeks before they should be fit for release back into the wild. But the length of the stay would be substantially longer for the oiled chicks.

Members of the public are urged to be watchful on the beaches in and near Port Elizabeth to report oiled seabirds in need of rescue, as well as any carcasses.

The Cabinet declared Algoa Bay a Marine Protected Area, and it was already recognised as one of the six “Hope Spots” in South Africa, and a “Crucial Bird Area” by BirdLife.

To report birds in distress call Sanccob at 041 583 1830 or report the sighting of carcasses at 021 557 6155.