The population of wild African penguins has plummeted from 1 million breeding pairs worldwide to just 23,000 in 2016 – a horrifying 98% decline. Only 2% of the world’s African penguins remain, and just under half this number (10,000) is found in South Africa.
Bird Island, part of the Addo National Park, your support helps fund, is a critical penguin breeding ground and a major hope for their survival. Deadly cold, wet and windy conditions have been battering the island since March. The survival of penguin chicks who are born in winter is severely threatened. Some have already died.
The situation is severe with endangered penguin chicks abandoned by their parents because of extreme food scarcity and harsh weather conditions. African penguins mate for life and are good parents who do their utmost to feed, protect and care for their offspring, but in the extreme weather self-preservation kicks in and parents abandon their chicks to fend for themselves.
Addo’s team discovered emaciated penguin chicks so desperate for food, they were eating grass. Penguins eat fish, grass and plants cannot sustain them but merely keeps their hunger pangs at bay, and in fact, makes them ill. When the abandoned chicks were rescued, they began retching mounds of thick, green gunk.
The area around Bird Island is notorious for fierce winter storms and wild seas. From now until the weather improves in September, a series of emergency penguin rescues must take place if they are going to have any chance of survival. The weather gets so bad that boats are unsafe; helicopter rescues are the only answer.
While adult penguins can survive up to three weeks without food, vulnerable chicks will die within 24 hours in these conditions.
Transporting the chicks by helicopter is safe, effective and fast, and the penguins are taken to a well-established rehabilitation center. We have already sponsored two emergency helicopter evacuation missions and rescued 59 chicks. As more chicks are born, more rescue missions are vital, without them the future is bleak.Rescue missions are vitally important for the species to survive.
Because of climate change, extreme weather is becoming more frequent every year – at a time when African penguins’ main food source (sardines and anchovies) are diminishing because of overfishing.
A single rescue mission costs roughly $620 (£500) – and that saves the lives of 30 chicks! The more we can raise, the more missions we can complete, and the more chicks we can save.
Your donations will help fund vitally needed helicopter missions. Once these chicks regain their strength and are successfully rehabilitated, they will be taken back to the island, where as adults, they will be strong enough to survive the harsh conditions.