SANCCOB Cape Town centre establishment
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. The commercial harvesting of penguin eggs for export to European markets was seen as a major contributor to the rapid decline of the African penguin population. Notably, SANCCOB achieved its first major milestone in December of 1969 at a conference in the Kruger National Park, when the collection of penguin eggs on the islands was banned.
At the same time, Althea was running the rescue operation from her home, whilst the business and secretarial side was seen to by her husband, Professor Ernst Westphal, a well-known South African linguist.
In 1971, the operation was moved to Wetton (Cape Town) by hiring premises that formed part of a local veterinary practice. SANCCOB remained in Wetton for 13 years and it was here that the basics of cleaning and rehabilitation of oiled and injured seabirds was established. The site, however, proved to be challenging to the daily rehabilitation operations of the and a new premise was actively sought. In 1983, SANCCOB successfully obtained a lease for a site next to the Rietvlei Nature Reserve (Table View) and purchased a prefab housing site on auction from Caltex for R4,100 that used to house immigrant workers when the Milnerton Refinery was being built. The building was retrofitted to SANCCOB’s operational needs and remains the site of its current centre in the Western Cape.
New seabird hospital rebuild in Cape Town
In November 2018, SANCCOB reopened its Cape Town facility to the public and revealed its brand-new state-of-the-art seabird hospital; the largest facility of its kind in southern Africa. Specialised areas include two new Intensive Care Units, a three-part wash bay area for oiled seabirds, two surgical theatres, and X-ray room, an aviary, and rehabilitation pens and pools. The upgrade allows SANCCOB to increase its capacity to admit and rehabilitate more seabirds, improve the standard of care and educate more people about the plight of the endangered African penguin species and other seabirds.
SANCCOB Gqeberha Centre establishment
In March 2017, the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (SAMREC) announced that, after ongoing discussions with the SANCCOB, a new operating structure is to be introduced at its centre in Port Elizabeth. From 1 April 2017, the marine rehabilitation and education centre at Cape Recife would be under SANCCOB’s management and function as one of SANCCOB’s seabird centres.
The transfer of assets and all operations comes as a result of extensive discussions between SAMREC and SANCCOB and is seen as a progressive step towards putting long-term strategies in place for seabird conservation and environmental education in the region.
Dr Eckart Schumann, Chairperson of SAMREC Board of Trustees at the time, said, “This is a momentous decision for us, and it was certainly not taken lightly. SAMREC was established because of the perceived threat from increased shipping as a result of the construction of the new harbour at Coega, and a consequent requirement in the Record of Decision. This threat was seen to be particularly ominous for the African penguin, and indeed most of our work has subsequently been with penguins.”