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 two centres in South Africa: Cape Town (Western Cape) and Gqeberha (Eastern Cape).
What We Do
Saving southern African seabirds since 1968.
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. We treat 2500 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.
SANCCOB works with various stakeholders to ensure authorities take appropriate preparedness action to mitigate oil
We offer various engaging lessons for children and adults, including tours of the facilities, presentations and encounters with our Ambassador penguins.
We offer 3 and 6 month internships for over 18 years of age, a zoo and aquarium animal professional experience 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.
Penguin and Seabird Rangers
SANCCOB employs conservation staff in colonies in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape that are under the protection of conservation authorities to monitor seabirds.
Our Annual Report
"With each passing year, I am privileged to witness the awe-inspiring works of SANCCOB staff, interns and volunteers and this year in review, under the leadership of Natalie Maskell, has been a period of further development and success."
Dr Samantha Petersen - SANCCOB Chairperson 2021/2022
Mrs Inge Cilliers is the present Chairperson of SANCCOB, since 11 November 2022.
How It All Started
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.
If you wish to join the SANCCOB team then keep a look-out for job advertisements here for Western Cape and Eastern Cape facilities.
This video gallery is an easy way to access our YouTube uploads. Sometimes we will share videos of interest, captured by our staff, Penguin and Seabird Rangers or volunteers. We also often have the privilege of working with professional videographers and film makers, who dedicate their expertise and time to create short films of the critical conservation work we do, as well as of projects and programmes.