Wadd­le lot of free­dom

Re­ha­bi­li­ta­ted pen­guins in P­lett poi­sed for re­le­a­se this wee­kend

Knysna-Plett Herald - - News | Nuus - Yo­lan­dé S­tan­der

E­le­ven stran­ded A­fri­can pen­guins are set to wadd­le their way to free­dom co­me 28 Ju­ly w­hen they will be re­le­a­sed on P­let­ten­berg Bay’s Look­out Be­ach af­ter ha­ving been nur­sed back to he­alth by lo­cal ex­perts.

The group of ma­ri­ne bi­rds – two a­dults and ni­ne ju­ve­ni­les – is part of a re­le­a­se pro­gram­me by the Te­ni­kwa Wild­li­fe Re­ha­bi­li­ta­ti­on and A­wa­re­ness Cen­t­re, Na­tu­re’s Val­ley Trust and Bi­rd­li­fe South A­fri­ca. The pen­guins had been found stran­ded al­ong the Gar­den Rou­te co­as­t­li­ne o­ver the past few mont­hs and had un­der­go­ne re­ha­bi­li­ta­ti­on at Te­ni­kwa.

This will be the fourth re­le­a­se of its kind o­ver the past y­e­ar and has not on­ly been a con­ser­va­ti­on i­ni­ti­a­ti­ve, but al­so an e­du­ca­ti­o­nal tool for com­mu­ni­ties to get in­vol­ved in such ef­forts.

Te­ni­kwa ve­te­ri­na­ry nur­se Han­lie Roux ex­plains that the pen­guins had been found on be­a­ches in P­let­ten­berg Bay, Na­tu­re’s Val­ley, Knys­na and Gou­kam­ma.

“We be­lie­ve they mig­ht be from the Port E­li­za­beth pen­guin co­lo­ny and that they had co­me all this way for food. Food seems to be plen­ti­ful in the P­lett a­rea whi­le ot­her a­re­as ap­pear to be suf­fe­ring from o­ver­fis­hing,” Roux says.

She adds that most of them en­ded up in the a­rea exhausted and had been broug­ht to the cen­t­re for va­ri­ous re­a­sons in­clu­ding in­ju­ries, di­se­a­se and moul­ting. One of the pen­guins had an in­ju­ry to its foot whi­le a­not­her suf­fe­red a bi­te from a pre­da­tor al­ong the hip a­rea. One al­so had a very se­ri­ous ca­se of tick bi­te fe­ver. De­pen­ding on the se­ve­ri­ty of e­ach ca­se, the bi­rds re­main at the cen­t­re for re­ha­bi­li­ta­ti­on for a­ny­thing from a few weeks to se­ver­al mont­hs.

The re­ha­bi­li­ta­ti­on pro­cess and re­le­a­se pro­cess is a mam­moth task. Roux ex­plains that the bi­rds are nur­sed back to he­alth and are as­sis­ted to gain fit­ness and con­fi­den­ce to ta­ke on the o­ce­an a­gain. The­re­fo­re the pen­guins pro­gram­me in­clu­des dai­ly swim­ming and exe­r­ci­sing. Ot­her me­a­su­res in­clu­de wa­ter­p­roof­ing their fe­at­hers to en­s­u­re they can spend ex­ten­ded pe­ri­ods at sea wit­hout lo­sing bo­dy tem­pe­ra­tu­re.

Roux says as part of the re­le­a­se pro­to­col, e­ach pen­guin would need to ha­ve gai­ned suf­fi­cient weig­ht – tip­ping the sca­le at be­t­ween 2.6kg and 2.8kg. Their b­lood is al­so a­na­ly­sed to en­s­u­re they do not car­ry any b­lood-bor­ne di­se­a­ses and that they don’t ha­ve any he­alth is­su­es.

Be­fo­re their re­le­a­se, e­ach pen­guin is pho­to­grap­hed to cap­tu­re their chest plu­ma­ge as a met­hod of “dou­ble mar­king”. E­very A­fri­can pen­guin has an in­di­vi­du­al spot pat­tern. Dou­ble mar­king re­fers to the fact that e­ach pen­guin will al­so get a trans­pon­der to i­den­ti­fy them.

The pen­guins’ me­a­su­re­ments are al­so no­ted and the­se in­clu­ding the length of their bills, he­ads, flip­pers, girth, bo­dies and feet.

As a run-up to the re­le­a­se, the Na­tu­re’s Val­ley Trust will be pu­blis­hing a sto­ry on e­ach of the pen­guins on their Fa­ce­book pa­ge Na­tu­re’s Val­ley Trust.

P­ho­to: E­wald S­tan­der

The re­le­a­se of pen­guins in­to the wild is al­ways a joyous oc­ca­si­on with ma­ny pe­op­le in P­let­ten­berg Bay rocking up for the ex­pe­rien­ce.

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