SANCCOB to upgrade Chick Rearing Unit in Cape Town to incubate and hand-rear African penguin eggs and chicks

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) is currently fundraising to upgrade and improve its Cape Town centre’s Chick Rearing Unit (CRU). SANCCOB is the only organisation in the world to artificially incubate and hatch wild-origin African penguin eggs and hand-rear the chicks for release back into the wild, with the aim of bolstering the declining wild population, and this incredible work takes place in this Unit.

The existing Chick Rearing Unit was renovated in 2011 as a dedicated facility to care for African penguin chicks which was urgently required at the time. SANCCOB’s Chick Bolstering Project commenced in 2006 as a collaborative project between SANCCOB, conservation authorities, and the South African government in order to arrest and reverse the decline of the African penguin population. This is achieved by working with conservation management authorities to identify eggs and chicks at penguin colonies that require rescue, and then releasing artificially reared chicks back into the wild and conducting related research. Penguin and Seabird Rangers are employed by SANCCOB to monitor, rescue, stabilise and transport seabirds in need of intervention, as well as collect valuable data for research and ensure that the natural habitat of seabirds is maintained.

The threats to this endangered species have changed since then, and the numbers of eggs and chicks being admitted have increased exponentially, which makes SANCCOB’s conservation efforts to reverse the decline of numbers more crucial. The NGO admits – on average – 500 to 600 African penguin chicks and 300 to 400 African penguin eggs each year with numbers increasing annually, mainly due to chicks being abandoned during extreme weather events (extreme heat or flooding of nests during rain storms) or by moulting parents.

The current facility at the Cape Town centre is now no longer sufficient in terms of space, flow, and hygiene needs, and in order to keep up this very important role to ensure everything is done to save the species from extinction, more space with improved amenities are necessary. SANCCOB’s current release rate of hand-reared African penguin chicks remains high at 81%; however, this is becoming harder to achieve due to the ageing infrastructure and lack of available space.

Watch an African penguin chick hatch from its egg at SANCCOB’s Chick Rearing Unit.

This expansion of the CRU will enable SANCCOB to accept twice the amount of abandoned and rescued African penguin eggs and chicks to further bolster the wild population. At present, the CRU can accommodate 200 eggs for incubation and maximum of 100 little chicks. The added outcomes are the opportunities for creating awareness, providing skills development for individuals interested in fields of conservation, training in husbandry skills, and mentorship that will leave a life-long impressions.

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Over more than five decades, SANCCOB’s Chick Bolstering Project has delivered significant rehabilitation and release successes, constructed and maintained a Chick Rearing Unit and a Nursery, trained significant numbers of staff, interns and rangers, provided stabilisation equipment and vehicles for the safe transport of chicks and eggs to the SANCCOB centres, and published articles in multiple scientific journals.

In order to create additional space, better flow, and a more hygienic environment, SANCCOB will join two existing buildings, which will expand the CRU. This expansion would include an egg incubation room, chick incubation and brooder room, a room for chicks in crates, a room for food preparation, a laundry room, a bathroom for staff and interns, a storage area, and an outdoor pen for chicks to get fresh air and sunlight. Fruition of this expansion will directly and positively impact the declining population of the African penguin.

SANCCOB is reliant of donor funding to carry out its critical work with southern African seabirds and in order to make this expansion a reality, we have embarked on an appeal campaign to secure sponsorship of building materials and electrical appliances. If you wish to assist or represent a company that will consider lending support, then please contact Cindy Correia at or Melissa Knott at