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November 9, 2001

Penguin population recovers

South Africa oiled wildlife rehabilitation effort a success

Once considered controversial, and even counterproductive, the rescue and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife can now be done so successfully that oiled penguin rehabilitation is considered part of the conservation management plan for endangered African penguins off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), a non-profit organization born out of a devastating spill beneath the Golden Gate Bridge thirty years ago, has learned that the population of penguins their team helped rescue and treat in the summer of 2000, has already recovered to pre-spill numbers. A recent count found 6,700 breeding pairs, with the total population on Robben Island, the location of a major breeding colony, numbering 20,500.

“This is 1,000 more breeding pairs than last year and proof that a species can recover when quick response and proper procedures are followed immediately following a spill,” said Jay Holcomb, director of IBRRC and veteran of over 100 oil spills.

“We are very excited to have helped preserve this endangered species. Working as members of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) Emergency Relief Team, we were able to save 90.3% of the 20,251 oiled African penguins treated, several thousand of which were chicks that would have surely died.”

Holcomb attributes the success of the largest wildlife rescue effort ever undertaken to prompt action by both Cape Town authorities and IFAW as well as the local people and thousands of volunteers, who came from all over the world, to help capture, wash, feed and rehabilitate over 20,000 birds.

“We’ve gone from saving almost no birds in 1971 to saving over 90% of the birds rescued from the Treasure spill in 2000. The rescue and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife is valid and we have proven we can save a species from possible extinction. We’ve come a long way and we’ve done what others said couldn’t be done,” said Holcomb.

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Media contact:

Karen Benzel

Office: (831) 622-7588

E-mail: karen@ibrrc.org

 

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