African penguin returns to where he was released
An oiled African penguin was found on Wilderness beach and brought to Saprec (Seabird and Penguin Rehabilitation Centre) on 24 September last year.
After being cleaned and rehabilitated at the centre, the bird was microchipped and released at Beacon Point in Mossel Bay on 11 November 2017.
Recently, a penguin with an arrested moult was found at the Point in Mossel Bay and after being scanned to see if it had been microchipped, it was found that it is the same penguin.
It is remarkable that it made its way back safely to where it was released 11 months ago.
For many years penguins were ringed prior to release with a metal band placed on the flipper.
These bands caused all sorts of problems and it was decided to stop using them. Other methods were looked into but anything externally used, had a negative effect on the penguins.
With new technology available, all rehabilitation facilities are now using microchips that are inserted under the skin and they have no negative effects at all.
Each bird gets a chip with its own number that has all the information of the bird, for example: what was wrong with it and where it came from.
When a stranded penguin is found, it gets scanned to check for a chip and if it does not have one, a chip is inserted prior to its release.
The value of keeping records and to have technology at hand is absolutely amazing as this little penguin’s history could now be traced.
He is suffering from an arrested moult. The African penguin’s feathers are important for keeping them warm and dry while they are in the cold seawater. The feathers may wear or even break and in order to replace these feathers, penguins go through a moult where their old feathers are pushed out and replaced by new ones. Moulting is a three-stage process and starts weeks before the feathers are actually replaced. First, they gorge themselves on fish to increase the body weight to endure the second stage. Penguins are not waterproof while moulting and stay on land for two to three weeks, fasting until their new feathers emerge. During this time, they might also go in what is called an arrested moult where they do not have sufficient body resources to complete the moult.
The third stage involves returning to the sea to replenish the lost weight. During the rehabilitation of this arrested moult condition, the birds are fed lots of fish but also oils such as Omega 3 and other supplements to assist them to moult again.
When in moult and especially when an arrested moult occurs, the penguins usually end up on our local beaches. All African penguins found on our beaches have to be reported and rescued. Contact Carol Walton (082 364 3382) or S.M.A.R.T. (072 227 4715).
Microchips are inserted under the skin and have no negative effects at all.
“Nature Knows No Waste” is the theme for National Marine Week 2018 that will be celebrated at the Dias Museum on 30 October.