Shedd Aquarium Sends Helping Hands to Rescue Penguins in Peril in South Africa

January 17, 2014

Chicago aquarium partners with South African rescue organization to save endangered African penguins

Shedd Aquarium, an international leader in animal care and conservation, is taking National Penguin Awareness Day on Jan. 20 global this year. In response to an unusual number of African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) strandings, Shedd has partnered with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to assist in the rehabilitation of more than 500 endangered birds. Two members of Shedd’s marine mammal care team have headed south this January to Cape Town, South Africa to lend
their expertise and helping hands to some of the most extreme cases in the center’s intensive care unit.

The support is part of Shedd’s expanding rescue and rehabilitation program to build partnerships with global organizations that respond to seasonal animal stranding events. This time of year, SANCCOB receives hundreds of African penguin chicks that have been abandoned or otherwise are not thriving in their nests. Classified as endangered on the Red List from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the vulnerable water bird is in rapid decline that could lead to extinction for the species within 15
years. African penguins are found ill, oiled, or injured each year as a result of human impact, including oil spills, habitat degradation and climate change. Additionally, food shortages resulting from large catches of fish by commercial fisheries and environmental fluctuations remain a major threat to the population. SANCCOB cares for more than 1,200 African penguins each year.

WHO: Lana Vanagasem, manager of penguins and sea otters, Shedd Aquarium
Margaret Roestorf, executive director, SANCCOB

VISUALS: Images show Shedd trainer Lana Vanagasem on site caring for African penguins with SANCCOB executive director Margaret Roestorf. Additional images provide an up-close look at penguins and penguin chicks at SANCCOB. General video provided by SANCCOB depicts the facility and staff activities in South Africa.

BACKGROUND: As a nationally recognized leader in rescue and rehabilitation work, Shedd Aquarium has responded to animals in need for more than two decades. Whether it’s providing around-the-clock care for a stranded sea otter pup or serving as an active responder in times of environmental disaster, Shedd’s animal care and veterinarian teams are respected for their trusted counsel and expertise in times of crisis. Shedd is also involved in a successful penguin breeding program and contributes to several penguin rescue efforts with
expertise and knowledge gained at the aquarium. In 2001, Shedd joined an international effort to rehabilitate more than 20,000 African penguins from a large colony of endangered penguins that were oiled when a cargo ship sank off the coast of South Africa. Members of the aquarium’s penguin care team helped to rehabilitate and release thousands of birds during a three-week trip to Cape Town. Additional information about Shedd’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts is available in the online press kit. SANCCOB is a leading marine-orientated non-profit organization that has treated more than 90,000 oiled, ill and injured, or abandoned African penguins and other threatened seabirds since being established in 1968.

PHOTOS/VIDEO: High resolution photos and broadcast-quality footage are available for download:  

Shedd Aquarium is supported by the people of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District. Shedd Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.

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