Christmas chicks coming in


After what has been an early ‘Chick Season’ in the Eastern Cape, an additional 24 abandoned African penguin chicks were admitted to the SANCCOB seabird rehabilitation facility in Cape St Francis, on Tuesday. These chicks were abandoned by moulting parents in the St Croix colony in Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth.

Every year around Christmas SANCCOB admits hundreds of small fluffy African penguin chicks abandoned by their parents in the colonies. Without intervention by SANCCOB and its partners in conservation, these chicks would not survive.  With less than 2% of the population remaining in the wild today, SANCCOB needs YOUR help to care for these abandoned African penguin chicks.  

“We invite all members of the public to partake in our Christmas Chick Adoption campaign, during which all chicks admitted to the centre are put up for adoption at a fee of R500, which is the cost to cover its rehabilitation and release back into the wild”.  These special adoption packs include a colour photograph of your ‘christmas chick’, an adoption certificate and SANCCOB supporter stickers.  It is the ideal Christmas gift for a loved one.”

To adopt one of the ‘Christmas Chicks’ from SANCCOB in Cape St Francis, kindly contact Louanne Mostert at [email protected] or 083 874 3067.  For more information visit  If you spot a seabird in need, please contact the SANCCOB Seabird Rescue Line at 082 890 0207.

More on “chick season”:

Every year from November to February its chick season at SANCCOB. During this period, SANCCOB admits a large number of African penguin chicks (approximately 500 for the period) to its centres in Table View (Western Cape) and Cape St Francis (Eastern Cape).

A natural event that has been recorded since the 1930s, numerous penguin chicks are abandoned when the adults start their moulting cycle. During this time the parents replace their ‘tuxedo’ with a brand new set of waterproof feathers and are unable to hunt for fish and feed their young during the three to four week moulting process. As a result, the chicks that have yet to fledge are abandoned and face starvation unless conservation organisations like SANCCOB and its partners SANParks (Table Mountain National Park and Marine Rangers section of Addo Elephant National Park) and CapeNature, intervene.

Working together with colony managers SANParks and CapeNature, these abandoned chicks are brought from the colonies to SANCCOB for rehabilitation and release back into the wild. Once at the centres, these ‘Christmas chicks’ (as they are fondly named) are taught to swim, fed ‘fish smoothies’ and taken care of by the dedicated staff and volunteers who work round the clock to ensure that they get released back into the wild.

The rehabilitation programme can take anything from 6 weeks to 3 months depending on their size and condition. Once they are at a fledging age, the correct weight, healthy and their feathers are waterproof, they receive the final nod of approval from SANCCOB’s veterinary team and get released back into the wild.

These activities form part of the Chick Bolstering Project, a collaboration between SANCCOB (project administrators), the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, the Animal Demography Unit (UCT), DEA (Oceans and Coasts), CapeNature, Robben Island Museum and SANParks.

Research has proven that hand-reared chicks fare as well as naturally-reared chicks in the wild. With less than 18 000 breeding pairs left in the wild in South Africa, African penguins are an endangered species and it remains critical to save every individual possible to bolster the numbers in the wild.

The hand-rearing of orphaned chicks has been identified as an essential and successful component of bolstering the wild population in the internationally recognised Biodiversity Management Plan for the African Penguin. SANCCOB, researchers and management authorities are continuously working to understand the reasons behind this annual event which was first recorded in the 1930s. It is believed that the number of chicks left in the colony at the end of the breeding season is directly linked to the breeding success and availability of food for the adults prior to, and throughout, the breeding season. 


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