SANCCOB’s First Penguin Blood Transfusion – Penguin Becomes Valentine Hero

SANCCOB’s First Penguin Blood Transfusion – Penguin Becomes Valentine Hero

SANCCOB has performed its first penguin blood transfusion and saved the life of an African penguin at our Cape Town Centre in South Africa.

We do not know the cause of the penguin’s injury. It may have been a natural predator like a shark or seal or related to human negligence such as a sharp piece of metal in the sea. Whatever the cause, the little penguin was near fatally wounded by the time she made it to the shoreline. Suffering from major blood loss, she would have died were it not for a Good Samaritan who picked her up and rushed her straight to hospital – a specialised seabird hospital. Like most of our other patients here at SANCCOB, Eleven, as she is known, is an African penguin, which is a highly endangered penguin species endemic to the African continent. Her name, Eleven, refers to her being the eleventh penguin casualty of the year.

She arrived late at night and was helped by our staff at Cape Town’s dedicated rehabilitation centre for seabirds, which has treated more than 95,000 seabirds since it was established 50 years ago. Veterinarians were quick to stabilise her in the Intensive Care Unit but Eleven’s blood cell count was so low that her chance of survival was bleak. To the rescue came Syd, an African penguin at the facility, unaware that he was about to become a valentine hero.

Dr David Gordon Roberts, SANCCOB’s clinical veterinarian, says, “We analysed the blood of several potential donors at the centre and Syd’s was by far the highest quality. Syd could safely donate 30ml of blood, or about 1% of his body weight. That may not sound like a lot, but to Eleven that was enough to prove lifesaving.”

Dr Roberts and international veterinarians volunteering at SANCCOB performed a blood transfusion, the first in SANCCOB’s history. Three weeks on, Eleven’s blood cell count has returned to normal and she is making good progress with her physiotherapy. Despite multiple wounds, she is already swimming with style and waddling to recovery. As for Syd, he seems to be taking his new status as Eleven’s hero in his stride.