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PICS: Two stranded penguins flown to Gqeberha’s SANCCOB to begin final leg of their rehabilitation programme

Penguins, Amber and Blush, stranded on KZN beaches within a week of each other in June 2021. Picture: South African Association for Marine Biological Research

Penguins, Amber and Blush, stranded on KZN beaches within a week of each other in June 2021. Picture: South African Association for Marine Biological Research

Published Jun 28, 2022

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Durban — Two penguins that stranded a year ago on KwaZulu-Natal beaches were flown to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in Gqeberha where they will begin the final leg of their rehabilitation programme.

That was according to the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (Saambr) who said they were grateful to The Bateleurs (Volunteers Flying for the Environment) and especially to pilot Claude Parnell who offered to fly their two VIP’s (Very Important Penguins) from KZN to SANCCOB Gqeberha on Sunday, where they will begin the final leg of their rehabilitation programme.

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Penguins, Amber and Blush, stranded on KZN beaches within a week of each other in June 2021. Picture: South African Association for Marine Biological Research

Lead animal behaviourist Kelly de Klerk said: “It’s a bittersweet moment seeing them being loaded onto their VIP plane because we have enjoyed rehabbing and watching these two special birds go from strength to strength. They have left footprints on our hearts. Until then, we hope they continue making good progress and wish them well.”

Saambr’s Ann Kunz said the penguins, Amber and Blush, were stranded on KZN beaches within a week of each other in June 2021. Besides being dehydrated and undernourished, Blush presented with injuries to his feet and was barely able to move. Amber also had severe cuts to both her feet.

Penguins, Amber and Blush, stranded on KZN beaches within a week of each other in June 2021. Picture: South African Association for Marine Biological Research

“They were dewormed, received fluids, treated with antibiotics, and propped up with towels under infra-red lamps in a quiet corner of the clinic as part of their initial treatment plan. They regained their strength slowly but surely and by the time they left the hospital, they were eating 10 sardines a day and had gained over a kilogram each,” Kunz said.

“Amber and Blush developed a very strong bond while they were in the hospital facility as they were with each other all day every day and even slept on each other’s shoulders. This special bond continued when they were introduced to the older penguins in the uShaka Sea World African penguin colony. Although they integrated quite well with the rest of the penguins, even picking up enough social skills to claim their spots in the sun, and preferred shelter, they were never far apart.”

Penguins, Amber and Blush, stranded on KZN beaches within a week of each other in June 2021. Picture: South African Association for Marine Biological Research

Kunz said that in order to survive, it was essential that rehabilitated penguins form close relationships with a group of at least 10 penguins of similar age prior to release. SANCCOB provides this opportunity as they keep penguins ready for release together in groups for a week or longer before releasing them.

Kunz said that The Bateleurs brought a young releasable sea turtle, named Donny back with them on their return trip from Port Elizabeth. Donny will be released in a collaborative release project with the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, Bayworld Oceanarium in Gqeberha and the East London Aquarium.

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