08 September 2005

South Africa: More oiled penguins struggle ashore

Car owners may have good reason for having some oil-related complaints these days, but it is the African penguin that is really entitled to complain about the "black gold".

Over the past four weeks the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) has taken in 430 oiled penguins - nearly three times more than usual - that are struggling to survive.

The intake of oiled birds is the largest since the Treasure oil spill in 2000.

The foundation's small staff of 10, assisted by volunteers, is working day and night to keep the penguins alive or prepare them for release. So far, 374 of the birds have been washed. Most of them are being kept at the foundation's base until they regain their strength.

Sanccob's chief executive officer, Alan Jardine, is baffled why so many penguins have been smeared with oil.

"The most logical explanation," says Jardine, "is that rogue ship captains continue to flush their bilges along the coastline, apparently because it is more convenient and cheaper for them. Ships illegally dumping their waste out in the open sea is a chronic problem."

There is also good news, however. Except for 10, all the penguins brought in are making a full recovery. Moreover, when Sanccob raised the alarm in its newsletter, volunteers rushed over to help. One woman, Anthea Silove, 54, travelled from Israel - at her own expense.

Sanccob is continuing to receive oiled penguins, but the numbers are slowly falling.

Jardine, however, refuses to speak of a "normal" situation: "Normal would be if we did not have to exist. That would mean people were taking better care of our world."

Source: www.iol.co.za


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