Saving seabirds

Since 1968

seabirds admitted
seabird species treated
penguin chicks reared since 2001
African penguins admitted annually

SANCCOB is a registered non-profit organisation (NPO 003-134) whose primary objective is to reverse the decline of seabird populations through the rescue, rehabilitation and release of ill, injured, abandoned and oiled seabirds – especially endangered species like the African penguin.

The organisation works closely with colony managers to identify birds in need of care in the wild and bring them to one of our three centres in South Africa: Cape Town (Western Cape), Cape St. Francis (Eastern Cape) and Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape).

In a normal year where no oil spills occur, SANCCOB treats up to 2 500 seabirds, of which approximately 1 500 are African penguins. The remainder include various cormorants species (including the endangered Bank cormorant and Cape cormorant); various species of terns; pelagic birds such as albatrosses, gannets and petrels; oystercatchers, gulls, pelicans and other coastal birds found in the region. On average,  24 different seabird species are rehabilitated every year.

SANCCOB is an internationally recognised leader in oiled wildlife response, rehabilitation and chick-rearing; contributes to research which benefits seabirds; trains people to care for the birds and educates the public to develop behavioural patterns which benefit marine life and the environment.

Our organisation is registered with the South African Veterinary Council; a member of PAZAAB, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); is endorsed by the Department of Environmental Affairs, World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, European Association of Zoos and Aquariums and American Association of Zoos and Aquariums; and has many working partnerships globally.


SANCCOB provides a 24/7 rescue service for sick and injured seabirds and abandoned chicks. We respond to oil spill disasters along the South African coastline.


SANCCOB is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of seabird rehabilitation, treating in excess of 2400 injured, sick and oiled seabirds annually.


Our specialist chick rearing unit saves African penguin eggs and chicks that have been abandoned, for subsequent release back into the wild.


We offer various engaging lessons for children and adults, including tours of the facility, presentations and encounters with our Ambassador penguins,


We offer 3 and 6 month internships for adults, as well as a zoo and aquarium keeper exchange programme and veterinary experience courses.


Ongoing research increases our understanding of seabird species’ behaviour, diseases and other factors that impact on their long-term survival.


mariette2Message from the Chairperson

In this period of reflection on the achievements of the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) over the past year, I would like to commend the whole team on the way they have worked together, how they engaged with over a hundred volunteers, as well as implemented their new work strategy. The strategic changes within the organisation have brought about a positive impact on all levels of communication, delegation of duties, access to volunteers and significantly strengthened our financial stature.

Over the past year, the road travelled together with the SANCCOB Board of Directors and the SANCCOB team has been an absolutely fascinating experience, with moments of pride and visible positive growth within the organisation. SANCCOB‘s fundamental friendship network with both its volunteers and staff is stronger than ever. It is clear that SANCCOB is an important role-player and leader in seabird research, conservation, education and oiled wildlife preparedness and response.

SANCCOB has clearly become increasingly visible by actively participating in global and local wildlife forums and networks such as the Global Oiled Wildlife Response System, the African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plan, Operation Phakisa Initiative B1 Working Group and Incident Management System Task Team.

The SANCCOB Board of Directors and I are proud to be involved the strategic governance of this developing and dynamic organisation and look forward to tackling the challenges that future years will bring. To our hardworking SANCCOB team and volunteers, I wish you all the best for the year ahead. Your commitment and dedication make a huge and noticeable difference. Let us continue to work at the forefront of nature conservation.

I would like to extend a SANCCOB hand of friendship to each and every person out there who is interested in joining forces with our unique organisation and phenomenal team. We endeavour to keep everyone up-to-date with relevant news and progress made within our organisation on a regular basis throughout the year ahead.

To this end, I would like to share a quote by Russell Simmons:

“It is important to focus on what we do best and master one craft at a time. A clear and focused mind will last a lifetime. Getting your mind in shape is nothing less than the key to sustainable success in the world.”

– Ms Mariette Hopley

Play your part:

Whether you give money, time or talent, your contribution is needed today to help save endangered seabirds like the African penguin and Bank cormorant.


Executive Director, Dr Stephen van der Spuy, leads a dedicated team of specialist veterinarians, bird rehabilitation staff, PR and education staff.

Dr Stephen van der Spuy
Chief Executive Officer & Board Member
Dr Katrin Ludynia
Research Manager
Marguerite du Preez
Volunteer Coordinator
Melissa Knott
Natalie Maskell
Business Manager
Candice Jansen-Steyn
Procurement Officer
Rushaan Martheze
Romy Klusener
Chick Rearing Unit Supervisor
Nicky Stander
Rehabilitation Manager (WC)
Rhiannon Gill
Bird Rehabilitator
Marna Smit
Bird Rehabilitator
Eljoren Goeda
Bird Rehabilitator
Sibongile George
Bird Rehabilitator
Theresa Wijker
Education Manager
Alex Rogers
Education Assistant
Ronnis Daniels
Public Relations Officer
Christian Triay
Preparedness & Response Manager
Peter van der Linde
Bird Rehabilitator
Dr David Roberts
Clinical Veterinarian
Albert Snyman
Research Assistant
Stacey Webb
Eastern Cape Manager
Michelle Brackenridge
PE Administrator
Philipa Wood
PE Education Manager
Marcelo October
Stony Point Marine Ranger
Mashudu Mashau
African penguin Area Manager: Simon’s Town
Stephanie Brisland
Data Administrator
Samantha Ross
Veterinary Nurse


Mariette Hopley
Dr Samantha Petersen
Vice Chairperson
Inge Cilliers
Dr Azwianewi Makhado
Board Member
Dr Clifford Nxomani
Board Member
Karel van Wyk
Board Member
Sheryl Ozinsky
Board Member
Peter Misselbrook
Board Member


In the late 1960s, a remarkable woman named Althea Louise Burman Westphal set up a temporary station at her home in Claremont to treat oiled penguins, after realising that the SPCA’s facilities were not suitable for this task.

The Esso Essen spill was the first of the major recognised spills and Althea began rehabilitating 60 badly oiled penguins. In those days, the birds were scrubbed with Sunlight soap, three at a time in Althea’s bathroom and rinsed with a hose. She fed them long strips of hake, which had been dipped in cooking oil. The birds were given a 50/50 chance of survival.

The penguins had a wooden trailer filled with water in Althea’s garden as their swimming pool. Later, she obtained a huge stainless steel dye vat to use as a pool. Two or three times a week the birds were driven to Blaauwberg in Althea’s station wagon, marched down the beach to the tidal pool and allowed to swim for an hour.

The first flipper rings were coloured bias binding, and then dymotape and finally G rings which were supplied by the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute (PFPI) of UCT.

During this time, Althea carried out extensive research on the “Jackass penguin” to help her understand its lifestyle and dietary requirements. Early in 1968 Althea started enquiries into establishing a rescue operation, and eventually she persuaded Dr Roy Siegfried of PFPI to help her launch SANCCOB – a task they believed would cost about R150 000. Eventually a group of concerned individuals rallied together, including members of PFPI and the SA Army, and SANCCOB was founded.

Proof that the African penguin species was declining was obtained through photographic evidence of the islands from 1914 to the 1930s. Althea was given a permit to operate by the Department of Guano Islands, and a grant of R10 000 from the SA Wildlife Foundation (now the WWF) for a three year Population Dynamics Study on Dassen Island. SANCCOB achieved its first milestone in December of 1969 at a conference in the Kruger National Park when the collection of penguin eggs on the islands was banned.

Althea’s efforts in seabird conservation continued for decades, and she was recognised by conservation organisations such as SA Nature Foundation and the World Wide Fund for Nature and Conservation. She nourished and drove SANCCOB from its modest early stages to become an international leader in coastal bird rehabilitation, and was eventually made Honorary Life President. She was a dynamic, determined, self-motivated, dedicated and committed philanthropist and environmental conservationist – the likes of which South Africa may never see again.

Althea Westphal passed away on the 7th of August 2002, survived by her daughter Jane and her grandchildren, Melanie and Andrew. Her legacy lives on in the dynamic, internationally recognised organisation she co-founded.

Information supplied by: Bruce Coultas and Elizabeth Cridland

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