Saving a Species and Spending Christmas with Penguins

A colony of endangered African penguins (Photo credit: Shedd Aquarium/Sheri Hendricks

January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day. The following is a blog post by Sheri Hendricks, Animal Care Specialist at Shedd Aquarium, about her experience helping save African penguins from extinction.

A colony of endangered African penguins (Photo credit: Shedd Aquarium/Sheri Hendricks)

Most people spend Christmas with their families. I was lucky enough to spend it with penguins.

As a nationally recognized leader in rescue and rehabilitation, Shedd Aquarium has responded to animals in need for over two decades. I’m very lucky to be part of Shedd’s marine mammal team, an extraordinary group of dedicated individuals that has worked with partners across the globe to supply critical care to animals in need. One of these relationships is with Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a leading marine-orientated non-profit organization that has treated more than 90,000 oiled, ill, injured or abandoned African penguins and other threatened seabirds since being established in 1968.

To help assist with the rehabilitation of hundreds of endangered African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), Shedd sends members of its marine mammals team to SANCCOB to care for the birds and prepare them to be re-released. When the opportunity presented itself in late November to be one of the many volunteer responders to this effort, I didn’t think twice about spending my holiday saving an endangered species.

Many of the stranded penguins had health issues including foot problems, lacerations or other illness, sometimes even broken wings or malaria. The birds needed all the help they could get, and our team was ready and able to provide the care needed so they could hopefully be released back into the wild. Working hand-in-hand with SANCCOB to care for the penguin chicks no two days were the same, but each day was inspiring, exhilarating and looked a little bit like this:

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