The African penguin is native to the coasts of southern Africa and is considered an endangered species. It has undergone a rapid population decline, probably as a result of commercial fisheries and shifts in prey populations.
SANCCOB, a conservation organization in South Africa, is working to help African penguins with initiatives such as the Chick Bolstering Project. The goal of this project is to arrest the global decline of the African penguin through conservation efforts focused on juveniles of the species.
Between 2006 and 2008 nearly 1,500 African penguin chicks were abandoned at breeding grounds due to parent birds beginning their molt. When adult penguins begin to molt, they leave their nest and gather at the shore line with other molting and non-molting adults. Once the molt begins they do not return to the nest. Molting birds are no longer water proof and therefore unable to fish for food for themselves let alone their chicks. SANCCOB supports these abandoned chicks and releases them back into their natural habitat in healthy condition. The Minnesota Zoo’s Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Grant Program provided funding for veterinary testing and supplies for this project. This project was championed by Molly Gezella, Bird Show Interpretive Naturalist at the Minnesota Zoo.