Penguins rescued from the Port Elizabeth coast following an oil spill in July have been released back to Bird Island. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – All seabirds rescued from Algoa Bay following a 400-litre oil spill have been released back into the wild from rehabilitation centres.

Some 90 African penguins, nine penguin chicks, three penguin eggs, 12 Cape gannets and five Cape cormorants were rescued from the Port Elizabeth coast in July after fuel tank valves from the MV Chrysanthi S were not properly closed, which lead to an overspill.

At the time the vessel had been supplied with as much as 1 300 metric tons of fuel, and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said the vessel’s owner had been found liable.

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) had rehabilitated the seabirds, and the Department of Environmental Affairs, Transnet National Ports Authority, SA Marine Fuels, oil spillage management services, and SANParks, ensured that the oil had not reached the coastline and that the damage was contained.

Sanccob spokesperson Ronnis Daniels yesterday said two big releases have since taken place, with 48 African penguins released at Bird Island in early August, and a further 28 penguins and eight Cape gannets released on August 17.

“The remaining oil-affected seabirds were subsequently released in the weeks that followed.

“Unfortunately, 24 African penguin chicks in poor condition were admitted on August 16, after being abandoned by their oiled parents.

“These chicks are being hand-reared at the Sanccob Port Elizabeth centre and only once they have acquired their waterproof plumage can they be released back to the Bird Island colony.”

Sanccob has also launched its Build-A-Pool public appeal to fund-raise for a new rehabilitation pool with six pens at its Port Elizabeth centre.

Sea birds admitted to Sanccob Port Elizabeth for veterinary care and rehabilitation were rescued on the east coast, and from St Croix and Bird islands, where the largest populations of endangered African penguins and Cape gannets are found in South Africa. Last year, the centre admitted 210 African penguins and 108 flying seabirds.

“This project has finally come to fruition with R770 000 of the total cost of R1.7 million funded by the National Lotteries Commission, and Sanccob is reaching out to the public to help raise R100 000 and be a partner in its marine wildlife conservation efforts.

“A R100 each from 1000 people is all it takes.”

Visit www.sanccob.co.za for more information or to donate online.

Bank details for Sanccob: FNB, Account Number 59237135859, ref. PE Pool.