Christmas chicks in good hands


Story 2The festive period has been another busy one for SANCCOB as the seabird rehabilitation centre in Table View admitted over 350 abandoned African penguin chicks since 1 November 2012. The bulk of the 6-8 week old chicks came from the Stony Point colony in Betty’s Bay, a thriving penguin colony and one of the few land-based colonies in southern Africa. Numerous penguin chicks historically become abandoned at the end of the breeding season just before the parents start their annual moulting cycle.



During this time the parents replace their ‘tuxedo’ with a brand new set of waterproof feathers and are unable to hunt for fish and feed their young during the three to four week moulting process. As a result, the chicks that have yet to fledge are abandoned and face starvation unless conservation organisations like SANCCOB intervene.

Working together with the Overstrand Municipality and CapeNature, underweight and ill chicks are identified in the colonies and brought to SANCCOB on a weekly basis for rehabilitation from November to January every year. Once at the centre, the ‘Christmas chicks’ (as they are fondly named) are stabilised, hydrated, fed and given all the care and nurturing from the rehabilitation staff ‘adoptees’ for 6 to 8 weeks. Once they are the right weight and age, and received the final nod of approval from SANCCOB’s veterinary team they are released back into the wild.


This year, many of the chicks admitted were in a very poor condition. Plant matter like twigs and shrubs were often found in their stomachs and is an indication that these little guys will do anything to survive. Luckily, through the hard-work and expertise of SANCCOB’s rehabilitation department and with the help from local and international volunteers, most of the ‘Christmas chicks’ are recovering well and gulfing up to six fish per setting.

The first batch of chicks was released on 1 January 2013 from Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town. Since then, SANCCOB has been releasing fit and healthy chicks back into the wild twice a week either from Boulders Beach or off Robben Island with the assistance from the Waterfront Boat Company.

Since 2001, SANCCOB has successfully released 2425 chicks from moulting parents back into the wild. Research has proved that hand-reared chicks fare as well as naturally-reared chicks in the wild. With less than 24 000 breeding pairs left in the wild, African penguins are an endangered species and it remains critical to save every individual possible to bolster the numbers in the wild. The hand-rearing of orphaned chicks is seen as an essential and successful component of bolstering the wild population.

What We Do

SANCCOB is at the forefront of saving African penguins and other threatened seabirds.  It never takes a day off and its rehabilitation team is on 24-hour call.

SANCCOB deploys its specialist emergency response skills in Africa, the Indian Ocean region, Antarctica and Sub-Antarctic. Through its training academy it equips people to work in the environmental sector; and a passion to instill pride and knowledge about marine conservation drives its education programmes.

SANCCOB is a leader in seabird disease research.

LATEST AFRICAN PENGUIN FIGURES released by South African Department of Environmental Affairs (2012):

18 683 breeding pairs in the wild in South Africa (excludes Namibian figures)





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  • The African Penguin DVD
    The African Penguin DVD
    The African Penguin is the only penguin that lives on the African Continent. It was known as the Jackass Penguin because of its donkey like call.
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    If you love penguins or would like to know more about these charismatic creatures then SANCCOB's specialist "behind the scenes" tour is a must. Fill in our booking form, send it to us and you
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    Adopt and name an African penguin that has been cared for and released back into the wild by SANCCOB.
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    1 Year membership for South African residents with Pensioner status. Click on 'Product Details' to purchase.
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    Magenta Penguin Book & Toy
    This is a story about a penguin that is different:a magenta penguin called Siffira10 and covers one year in her life.
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    Peter the Penguin Book
    A fun and informative book about Peter the penguin and focuses on his experience of the 2000 Treasure Oil Spill that put 40 000 penguins at risk.
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    Adopt a Penguin (email)
    Adopt and name an African penguin that has been cared for and released back into the wild by SANCCOB.
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    Abby’s Aquarium Adventures
    Join Abby on a adventure that will take you from the rivers in the Amazon the oceans of the world. Discover the creatures that life in and near the sea of the people who get to work with them on a daily basis....Abby may even let you in a few secrets.
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    A fashionable SANCCOB branded baseball cap. Fits all sizes. Only available in blue.
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    1 Year membership for South African residents. Click on 'Product Details' to purchase.

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