African penguins are one of five out of the 18 species of penguins that are endangered. In Play Park, you can find the Magellanic penguins at our newly renovated Tuxedo Coast habitat. This is a least concern species that we use as an ambassador to help support the African penguins.
Over the last century, human ocean activity has increased including the transportation of oil. South Africa has experienced five of the world’s 50 major recorded oil spills, making the country one of the global hotspots for oil pollution. The oil spills put marine wildlife at risk, with the most affected marine species being seabirds. When a bird is covered in oil, it breaks down the ability for their plumage to maintain body heat, water proofing and buoyancy. The birds can accidentally ingest it when preening their feathers causing dehydration, gastrointestinal problems and anemia. It also can cause long term effects including lung damage, impaired reproduction and poor survival of their eggs and young. Other threats to African penguin survival include human disturbances, pollution debris, human fishing, harvesting of aquatic resources, invasive species and habitat loss.
We support African penguins through an organization called the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). Located in Cape Town, South Africa, SANCCOB is a non-profit organization with the primary objective to reverse the decline of seabird populations through the rescue, rehabilitation and release of ill, injured, abandoned, and oiled seabirds – especially African penguins. They treat an average of 2,500 sick, injured and oiled birds every year and respond to every oil spill disaster on the South African coastline. SANCCOB also rescues 400 to 500 abandoned African penguin chicks and eggs each season and releases them when they are old enough. They support seven penguin and seabird rangers at four vital seabird colonies.
These rangers play a critical role in seabird conservation by identifying and rescuing injured, oiled or abandoned seabirds and eggs and transporting them to one of the two SANCCOB centers. The rangers collect valuable data which is used for scientific research, and they ensure that the natural habitat of seabirds is maintained. They also play an important role in monitoring and ensuring human-to-wildlife coexistence. The skill and dedication of SANCCOB’s penguin and seabird rangers have saved thousands of endangered African penguins and other seabirds that would otherwise have not survived.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens also supports SANCCOB by sending two employees every year for two weeks to help provide care for the birds in their busiest seasons of rescue, rehabilitation and release. This can include working in their kitchen preparing diets, cleaning the bird pens, feeding fish or tubing nutrients, helping with exams or providing medical care. SANCCOB has a small paid staff but relies on volunteers and interns to help run the facility so that as much care can go to the birds as possible.
If you would like to learn more about SANCCOB’s mission, their volunteer/internship opportunities, or to donate please visit sanccob.co.za. If you would like to support them through Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens you can visit our gift shops where we sell Magellanic penguin paintings, or keep an eye out for a Painting with Penguins event in which a portion of funds from both goes to SANCCOB.