Last month, penguin keeper Caroline traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to aid our conservation partners SANCCOB, the internationally renowned seabird rescue and rehabilitation facility, with African penguin conservation efforts. We caught up with Caroline to ask her about her fieldwork and working to save these endangered birds.
What was the purpose of your trip to SANCCOB?
“This was a professional development opportunity to see how wild African Penguins are taken care of at a conservation facility.”
What did you do while you were there?
“I worked at SANCCOB for two weeks mainly in the “nursery”. I was taking care of chicks and juvenile penguins who were abandoned by their parents in the wild. Daily care including feeding, cleaning and overall monitoring of their health.”
Who did you work with? Other zoo staff/international keepers?
“I worked alongside many other volunteers and interns from all over the world, as well as some rehabilitators employed by SANCCOB. There were some other zoo keepers from the USA there as well.”
What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
“I was surprised by the sheer number of volunteers it takes to operate the facility every single day. With several new folks starting every week. I was impressed with how much SANCCOB trusts and depends on these dedicated people. Even without penguin handling experience, it doesn’t take too long for the volunteers to get in there and work directly with the penguins.”
What was your favorite part/most exciting aspect?
“I really enjoyed my release day. We released 13 healthy penguins back into a wild colony at a place called Stony Point. It also happened to be a special event that day, Penguin Palooza, so there was a great public turnout to see the penguins return to their home.”
What did you learn/one thing you’d like to share about penguin conservation?
“The main thing I took away from this experience is that while SANCCOB is doing great things for conservation, African Penguins still need a lot of help. I learned that while most of us here at the Maryland Zoo are aware of the dire situation African penguins are in, many more people remain oblivious. Even many of the volunteers from abroad that I worked with had no idea that these penguins are so critically endangered, There’s much work to be done!”
African Penguin Conservation
The Zoo maintains an active and longstanding conservation partnership with SANCCOB, the internationally renowned seabird rescue and rehabilitation facility headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa that arguably has done more than any other entity in the world to reverse the decline of wild African penguins.