Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds

MV Treasure Oil Spill: 20 year Commemoration

On 23 June 2000, the MV Treasure sank off the coast north of Cape Town – between Dassen & Robben islands, resulting in the spill of 1,300 tons of bunker oil into the ocean. 19,000 African penguins and hundreds of other seabirds were oiled and a further 19,500 penguins were captured and translocated while the oil was cleaned. Watch a brief video compilation here.

2020 marks the 20th year since this event, which is still recorded as the biggest animal rescue operation in the world. The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) worked together with an international team, including governmental and conservation authorities, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), International Bird Rescue and thousands of animal professionals and volunteers from all around the world, to rescue and rehabilitate the endangered birds and save the species from further decline. The rehabilitation operation spanned over three months, where local and international teams of experts supervised over 45,000 volunteers.

Sadly, the total amount of African penguins in the wild today is equivalent to the number of birds affected in the Treasure spill and together with our partners in conservation, we continue to rescue and rehabilitate seabirds facing a variety of threats.

After 20 years since the MV Treasure sank, we are commemorating the incredible efforts of institutions and people, who selflessly dedicated their expertise, time, donations and overall support to an operation that not only saved the birds affected but also connected people.

Share your memorable Treasure experience below and together, we will reconnect and reminisce about the achievements and struggles. We honour those who have passed on and invite you to share messages of your loved ones and how you remember their involvement.


  • WATCH OUR WEBINAR HERE, with video clips from some of the major role players and volunteers, who contributed to saving the lives of the African penguins affected. The webinar was hosted on the 20th anniversary on 23 June 2020, presenting the entire story of the MV Treasure oil spill incident and personal experiences shared by Rob Crawford, Leshia Upfold, Samantha Petersen, Estelle van der Merwe, Mariette Hopley, Mark Russell, Valeria Ruoppolo, Barbara Callahan, Paul Kelway, Sue Jackson, Anton Wolfaardt, Peter and Barbara Barham.

Photo credit: Jon Hrusa | IFAW

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