Kia is an African penguin and one of SANCCOB’s (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) very proud ambassadors. One of 18 penguin species found around the world, the African penguin, formerly known as the Jackass penguin because of its donkey-like bray, is the only penguin species which occurs naturally on the African continent.
Kia is originally from the land-based Stony Point colony in Betty’s Bay – one of only 16 colonies where African penguins occur along the southern African coastline. Kia was admitted to SANCCOB on 5 December 2011 as a penguin chick after her parents abandoned her during their annual moult.
Every year, hundreds of penguin chicks are abandoned towards the end of the breeding season as the adults start their annual moult. In the natural cycle, adults fatten up in preparation for the moult process which lasts 3 weeks. During moult, they lose all their feathers and their waterproofing and are therefore unable to hunt; because of this they are incapable of feeding their chicks. These chicks will certainly die due to starvation, dehydration or predation, without the intervention of SANCCOB.
Year round, the dedicated staff at SANCCOB work together with the colony managers (CapeNature and SANParks) to remove and bring hundreds of abandoned African penguin chicks to the SANCCOB seabird centres in Table View (Cape Town) and Cape St. Francis (Eastern Cape) where they are hand-reared, receive round the clock care and are eventually released back into the wild. Unlike the other fit and healthy penguin chicks that SANCCOB releases back into the wild on a regular basis, Kia unfortunately did not meet the requirements for release but will stay in SANCCOB’s care as an ambassador penguin.
But abandonment isn’t the only threat to the African penguin species. The destruction of their natural habitat through ever-expanding coastal settlements, commercial fisheries over-fishing our fish stocks, every-day rubbish ending up in the ocean, predation by Cape Fur seals and oil spills on our coastline are currently also threats to their survival.
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