African Penguin Release 23 Feb 2016 | African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary

February 23, 2017 Theanette Staal

Four adult penguins named Siân, Dippy, Patat and Mr Penguin Infanta were released today from Dream Catcher, Dyer Island Cruises' vessel, in the bay near Dyer Island where these penguins will now continue to live following their annual moult.

They say a leopard can’t change its spots.  Well…penguins can’t change their spots either, but they do change their feathers every year during an annual moult when they shed all their old feathers to be replaced by new feathers.  As the new feathers are not yet waterproof, a process which takes about 20 days, the penguins are unable to swim and cannot hunt for food.

Prior to their annual moult, penguins bulk-feed to build up fat reserves to sustain them during their moulting period.  If a penguin is unable to gain sufficient weight, the moulting process may be halted.  As the old feathers have by now become dried out and brown and are not waterproof anymore, these penguins cannot return to sea and will eventually starve to death on the shore.

However, when an “arrested moulter” arrives at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, we can help kick-start the moulting process again through rehydration, a good supply of pilchards, additional supplements and patience.

Once these penguins have completed their moult, regained their waterproofing, reached a good weight and are healthy, they are released back into the wild.

The rescue and release of adult African penguins is a conservation triumph. To grow the African penguin population, we need to protect the adult birds. They need to go forth and multiply. Conservation efforts must be focused on repairing their habitat, preventing disaster like oil spills and disease outbreaks and acting fast to rescue adult African penguins in trouble.

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust, through the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary is committed to making a difference. For us, conservation is about more than rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is needed because #EveryBirdCounts, but it is but one small step in the journey to rebuild the population.