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S: South Africa 2010

FC: South Africa 2010

1: Cape Town, South Africa 2010 African Penguin Health Survey and SANCCOB.

4: August 3... I officially made it!!! I arrived in Cape Town late last night. I had a hard time sleeping though since it was only 5:00 at home! But I managed to wake up early this morning and make my way to SANCCOB with the other volunteers. There is a lot of diversity here. So far I have worked with people from | England, Australia, France, Germany, Holland, and of course South Africa. The facility is amazing and the people are so nice. Nola and Marlei of SANCCOB have been breaking me in. I have already helped with some physical exams and watched several treatments. They say that they don't have many birds here at this time, but to me, it seems like a lot. | I can't even begin to describe some of the things I have already seen in my first few hours here. Penguins with shark and seal bites, amputated legs, broken wings... It's truly heart wrenching! They just received 2 more juveniles today from Robben Island, making a total of 200 birds for the year! It's only day 1 and I am just beside myself!

6: So, one of their wonderful 'vollies' as they call them, sets up 2 whole rooms of her house as a chick shelter! Right now she only has 8 penguin chicks and 1 Sacred Ibis chick. | We went to what they call their 'chick head quarters'. Some years they get over 500 chicks in! Could you imagine? They don't have room at SANCCOB. | They house all of their chicks in craw fish containers and incubators. She takes care of them, feeds them, and gives them all of their treatments everyday! What an amazing person! | August 4, 2010

7: Next, I got to tag along with Nola while she checked on a bird at the Two Oceans Aquarium. in downtown Cape Town. | While I was there I got to see their daily March of the Penguins! They take the Rock Hoppers and King Penguin from their exhibit, to an outdoor exhibit. | How do they get there? They walk all the way down 3 floors! The birds just line up and take off! They know exactly where to go and aren't distracted by people at all! | It is really funny to see!!! They even let their birds swim in their large Kelp tank. However, the Africans always try and bite the live fish!

11: August 5, 2010 What an amazing day! We left early in the morning to go to Dyer Island. We crossed over the Stellenboush Mountains, and met up with Deon from the Cape Nature Institute. He and his crew took Nola and I out on their boat. You need special permitting to even go near the island. As soon as we walked off the boat, there they were, my first penguins in the wild! Nola couldn't stop laughing at me - I was so excited! Then as we rounded the corner leading up to the house, there were dozens of penguins by artificial nests. Deon kept looking at me funny as I acted like a tourist taking photos! We went all around the island collecting birds for the samples. Nola and Cape Nature are so organized, professional and safe with all of their collections. At first, Deon and Petey were grabbing all the birds off of the nests and handing them over. In the meantime, they were weighing and measuring all of the chicks for the Chick Bolstering project. But it wasn't long before they were ready to have me take a stab at grabbing the adults. They were almost all in artificial nests, and I actually found that it wasn't too difficult to grab them and get them out. I held the birds while Nola weighed them, took blood and swabs, and measured their head and beaks. We did a total of twenty birds and I had to hold each for 5 minutes or so. We had great success for the day! Except for when the stool broke from under me! I can't even explain how great today was! To see penguins running around on grass and chicks and such! I wanted to get into this field to educate and make a difference, but being here takes it to a whole different level! I am so proud to be part of this work!

16: ...and there they were, my first Penguins in the wild!!! | What an amazing day!!! | It went great until the stool collapsed! But I never dropped the penguin! | Dyer Island, August 5, 2010

18: Once we were ready to leave the island, Deon decided to play tour guide. Deon is quite funny that way. He kept me very entertained the whole time! | He took us on the boat over to Geyser Rock, otherwise known as Seal Island. We saw tons of Cape Fur Seals! They were swimming, sleeping, fighting and playing!

19: I was so excited to see all the seals! Until Nola told me that I wasn't supposed to get excited. "Tracy, we don't like seals here! They eat our penguins, so at least try and pretend not to like them!" I was still pretty excited though!

21: Greetings from Dyer Island! | Tracy, Nola, and Cape Nature

24: August 6, Today we went to Betty's Bay, Also known as Stony Point. No boat was needed since it is one of the 2 main land based colonies!

25: Several penguin colonies surround the south west coast of Africa

26: Betty's Bay is all rocky cliffs and shoreline covered with thick brush. Just 100 yards up from the penguin colony are houses.

27: Betty's Bay is a very small colony, but it is the only colony where the penguin population is increasing in numbers. We collected all the same samples as yesterday. The measurements are to see if we can determine gender, and it will be compared to the actual DNA tests run from the blood. We also test the guano and blood for diseases and parasites.

28: Today was much more difficult than yesterday. Getting the birds out of the brush is quite hard. They can run away from you here and you get poked with branches. I got beat up by the birds quite a bit more today too. I think it was because the birds had more time to react, so they became a bit more stressed.

29: The people here hate the penguins I'm told. They try numerous ways to keep the birds off of their property. One woman has even trained to her dog to attack the penguins! I would love to have penguins in my back yard!

34: SANCCOB The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

36: August 8, 2010 Over the weekend I had the opportunity to shadow the vollies at SANCCOB facility. They had me help out in the ICU for the day. We had 4 adult penguins, 4 little blues, 2 - P3's, 2 kelp gulls, 4 hartlub gull chicks, and a white chinned pettrel. They have a schedule to follow for the day that consists of rounds of tubing fluids and formula, feeds, meds, and then swim sessions. I have successfully been tubing birds all day!

37: I also got to learn how to restrain many different species of birds!!!

38: While I was there, we also had some oiled birds come in. They get oiled birds almost everyday there.

39: It was so sad to see.

40: The next day was a national holiday. So staff took the day off and the whole facility was run by the vollies! The vollies managed to get the birds everything they needed! | I wonder if they know how lucky they are to be able to make a difference!


42: SANCCOB does such amazing work! I am so proud to have been a part of it!

47: August 12, 2010 Today we finally got to go to Robben Island!

48: We left early in the morning on the ferry for Robben Island. On the boat ride over, we saw tons of wildlife!

49: We saw dolphins, fur seals, and hundreds of commorants!

51: Nola didn't have the Health Survey permit yet for Robben Island. I think she took me just so I would get the opportunity to see it! | So while we were there, we worked on the Chick Bolstering Project. We measured and weighed all of the chicks we could find.

52: Robben Island is completely different than the other colonies I had the chance to visit. There is a lot of activity on this island. Numerous people live here and it is visited by hundreds of tourists daily. But the main thing that makes this colony so different, is all of the thick bushes!!!

53: We were climbing over, under, and around thick branches and sticks! | We also looked for re-traps. But through the bushes it was almost impossible to read the bands! | It was a lot harder to get to the birds here! In 3 hours time, we only collected 18 chicks! | The ground was covered with stinging nettles. I was so itchy after just five minutes of crawling around! | Sometimes we even had to crawl on our bellies to get to the nest! | I think I brought more of the plants home with me than I left on the island!

55: Then we took a quick walk around the area so that I could see the prison and the Leper cemetery.

57: August 13, For my last day of work, I got to truly do something great! I got to help with the washing of all of the oilies they had at SANCCOB! I was able to see the whole process of taking a bird completely covered in oil and cleaning them up good as new again! What a perfect way to end my stay in Africa! I feel like I truly made a difference!

58: Cape Point Tour | August 14, 2010

60: I also got to see some pretty amazing wildlife!

61: and then, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

63: The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point | were two of the most breathtaking places I have ever been!

64: City Slickers | and of course...

65: The penguins of Boulders

66: I even made some pretty great Friends!

67: Memories

68: Thank you to everyone at SANCCOB! I had the most amazing time! It was a learning experience that will stay with me forever! I hope you all truly know how lucky you are to live such amazing lives. Hopefully with all of your hard work and partnering aquariums like Mystic, we can turn around this huge problem and preserve these precious animals for years to come! Also, thank you to everyone at Mystic Aquarium for allowing me to take this adventure! I hope the knowledge and the partnerships we have gained will strengthen us as a team and an institution. I am very blessed!

70: As of July 2010, the African Penguin was reclassified as an endangered species. Since the early 1900's, their population has declined by over 90%. In the last eight years alone it has dropped by an astounding 60%. It is estimated that there are only 25,000 breeding pairs of African Penguins left as of 2010. At this rate they will be extinct by the year 2025. The decline is thought to mainly be a result of oil pollution and lack of food. Organizations like Mystic Aquarium and SANCCOB facility work hard every day to be a part of the solution. I am honored to have been a part of both.

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  • By: tracy c.
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