Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds



Local and overseas volunteers play an integral part in operations at our Table View (Western Cape) and Gqeberha (Eastern Cape) centres, providing thousands of hours of much-needed conservation work on a daily basis. Volunteers must be over the age of 18, hard working and passionate about saving seabirds.

For under 18 years: In Cape Town, school-going groups under 18 years of age are accommodated through off-site volunteer experience programmes and Gqeberha has specially designed programmes for young people under 18.


Get hands-on experience working with endangered African penguins and other seabirds at the world renowned SANCCOB seabird centres in Cape Town or Gqeberha in South Africa.

  • You must be 18 years and over
  • No experience necessary
  • Minimum 6 weeks in Cape Town or Gqeberha
  • Placements all year round, with the busiest time in Cape Town from November to January for chick season.

As an international volunteer you will become an extension of our team of Bird rehabilitators, helping with most handling and feeding tasks.

Unfortunately, SANCCOB does not provide accommodation – but we can recommend accommodation used by many international volunteers in the past.

Your programme fee for a six week period will include a volunteer T-shirt and a seabird release trip (weather and bird permitting). Further information about the Cape Town and Gqeberha international volunteer programme is available in the respective documents below.


CLICK HERE to download the complete Cape Town information pack for international volunteers.

CLICK HERE to download the Cape Town application form as an international volunteer.

For more information to volunteer in CT, please call +27 21 557 6155 or email


CLICK HERE to download the complete Gqeberha information pack for international volunteers.

CLICK HERE to download the Gqeberha application form as an international volunteer.

For more information to volunteer in Gqeberha, please call +27 41 583 1830 or email

Local volunteers play an important role at SANCCOB’s centres in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape and are needed 365 days a year to perform tasks such as:

  • Assisting with seabird rehabilitation, cleaning and feeding birds
  • Driving/collecting seabirds
  • General centre maintenance and cleaning
  • Answering phones
  • Education/behind the scenes tours
  • Marketing/fundraising

Volunteers must be 18 years or older and reside permanently in the Cape Peninsula (Western Cape) or in the local Eastern Cape surrounds. Half day and full day shifts are available week days and over weekends.

Cape Town Information & Application for Local Volunteers

CLICK HERE to download the Local Volunteer Information Pack for Cape Town.

CLICK HERE to download the Local Volunteer Application Form for Cape Town.

For more information, please contact us on +27 21 557 6155 or email

Gqeberha Information & Application for Local Volunteers

CLICK HERE to download the Local Volunteer Information Pack for Gqeberha.

CLICK HERE to download the Local Volunteer Application Form for Gqeberha.

For more information, please contact our Gqeberha centre on +27 41 583 1830 or email

SANCCOB Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape offers conservation-focused educational meet ups for young people, which includes a chance to assist with kid-friendly and supervised tasks around the centre.

  • The Little Blues Club (7–11 year olds) gathers on the second Saturday of every month from 09h00 to 12h00. Attendees receive a fun-filled lesson and participate in a related activity which could include beach clean-ups, assistance with small tasks in the Rehabilitation Department, nature walks artwork and loads more. The cost is R60 per child and includes a light lunch. Please contact for more information.
  • The Penguin Protectors Club (12-17 year olds) members meets on the fourth Saturday of each month from 09h00 to 12h00 to enjoy a fun lesson to stimulate environmental interests, assist with tasks at the facility, as well as participate in activities such as beach clean-ups and nature walks. The cost is R60 per session and a light lunch will be included. Connect with for more information and to join the Penguin Protectors Club.
How volunteers help

This video shows the kind of tasks volunteers help with and testimonials of some who have volunteered, been an intern or participated in the Animal professional Experience.


Our seabird internships are structured, mentored training programmes with a strong focus on skills development –  suitable for returning volunteers, university students, graduates, post graduates, employees and volunteers in the fields of animal science, husbandry, care and welfare related fields. Previous experience working with birds is desirable though not essential.

Volunteers who have completed our international volunteer programme are eligible for a 50% discount on all our internship programmes.

Please contact SANCCOB’s Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for details of a refundable deposit and costs for international internships.

CT centre internship information packs downloadable as follows: Seabird Internship Information Pack and Chick Rearing Internship Information Pack

Download the application form for an internship opportunity in Cape Town.

Gqeberha centre intern information pack here and you can download the Gqeberha internship application form here.

Send the completed form, along with your CV and motivational letter, to our volunteer coordinator at

This course has been developed to prepare participants for a career in bird rehabilitation and conservation. Interns have the opportunity to work with a variety of seabirds.

Depending on the length of your internship, you will learn intermediate to advanced hands-on skills seabird rehabilitation techniques as well as be introduced to other areas such as basic laboratory work, centre management, education and training of others.

·         3 month Seabird rehabilitation international internship programme: R6 000 + R2 000 refundable deposit on completion of the internship.

·         6 month Seabird rehabilitation international internship programme: R7 000 + R2 000 refundable deposit on completion of the internship.

Click here to download the seabird internship information pack.

Download the application form and send with your letter of motivation to

The Penguin Nursery internship is focused on caring for bigger chicks, usually weighing 1.5kg or more. These chicks remain in the nursery until they are ready to move to the swimming rehabilitation pens.

More details.

The chick rearing internship is focused on egg management and rearing chicks from hatchling to 1.5kg. The course will equip you with seabird breeding and chick husbandry skills needed for a career in captive breeding or seabird chick rearing and conservation.

More details



Aquarists, penguin & seabird keepers, veterinarians, animal trainers, curatorial and education staff from zoos, aquariums and bird parks all over the world are invited to apply for this programme. It is not only a unique opportunity to learn more about how to care for penguins, but also includes participation in a penguin release (weather permitting).

Participants work side by side with our bird rehabilitation staff and competent volunteers, practicing their current skills and learning how to care for sick, injured, oiled and abandoned African penguins and other seabirds.

If you are an employee of an American Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) or European Zoo and Aquarium (EAZA) accredited institution, contact us about the special professional development programme that we currently offer.

  • Programme duration: 2 weeks
  • Excludes accommodation – please contact us for a list of accommodation used by previous participants.

For more information and to apply for this programme, please email


The veterinary experience has been developed to expose participants to a career in veterinary medicine.

One week course
International volunteers who are in their pre-clinical year of Veterinary science studies or are interested in a career in veterinary science may elect to add an additional week to their volunteer package in order to participate in the veterinary science experience.

The course is also suitable for South African citizens, aged 18 years or older, who have an interest in veterinary sciences and intend to pursue a career in this field.

Two week course
Qualified veterinarians, vet nurses and veterinary students in their final year of study may apply for this course.

Click here for our Vet Experience Information Pack.

Download the Vet Experience Application Form here.


“This is the first penguin release I have been a part of on my adventures to South Africa and it will be a memory that I will cherish forever. To be part of the bigger picture and knowing that we are doing our part to help this endangered species is more than I could have ever imagined.”

– Tracy Camp, senior penguin and pinniped trainer at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, USA

“There was no such thing as a typical day in the weeks we were at SANCCOB. We did a variety of tasks and most days we were on our feet non-stop from 8 am to 5 pm assisting with the treatment, and care of injured and sick birds. Back at the Zoo’s veterinary hospital, we regularly draw and examine the blood samples of the Penguin Coast colony, a skill which proved to be valuable at SANCCOB because we can do it quickly and confidently. We also utilized our experience to lend a hand as SANCCOB’s head veterinarian performed surgeries on injured penguins (leg injuries from seal bites are one of the most common traumas).” Read more…

– Jennifer Sohl and Kaitlin Studer, Veterinary Technicians at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, US

“The range of birds I’ve been able to work with is quite staggering. I’ve hand-reared tiny African penguin and Hartlaub gull chicks. I’ve helped to rehabilitate seabirds ranging in size from the delicate Swift Terns to massive pelicans and giant petrels. I’ve even learned to handle (and been bitten by cormorants). I’ve also had the opportunity to observe species I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see without a trip to Antarctica, such as the Shy Albatross and the Skua.

As well as rehabilitation work I’ve learned about common diseases and problems in seabirds, and attended a number of releases – which is what makes the whole rehabilitation process worthwhile, long hours, heartbreak and all. There is nothing so rewarding as watching those precious little babies who we all pour so much love, time and effort into, taking their very first dip in the ocean, or being restored to health to get back to where they’re supposed to be.”

– Fran Bell, SANCCOB intern and penguin mommy

“The experience I gained was second to none and I believe this was the best possible experience I have ever gained in my career as an animal scientist. SANCCOB is a world leader in coastal bird rehabilitation and whilst there you can see why. The staff is amazing and knowledgeable, offering help and advice whilst answering any question.

I managed to help with veterinarian procedures and assist in treatment that just wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.”

– Richard Smedley, Plymouth University