Due to their population decreasing by 90% in the last 60 years, the African penguin is now one of the world’s endangered species. Commercial fishing is a major cause, due to the penguins being left with very little food to find, oil pollution is a contributor and lack of protected breeding grounds results in penguin parents struggling to protect their eggs and hatchlings from big cats, birds of prey and fur seals.
The Rehabilitation Centre
The penguin and seabird project in Cape Town is in a lagoon area, about 15 minutes from the city centre. The rehabilitation centre is an important sanctuary for various species of seabirds, including the extremely endangered African penguins, albatrosses, petrels and skuas. You’ll work closely with other volunteers from around the world, as well as local veterinarians and rehabilitation workers, to find animals, treat them and release them back into the wild. The centre is split into different areas, so you may find yourself working indoors helping the animals who are being treated, or you may be outside working along the seashore.
Your program will start with an introduction day, and then you will get straight to work. You will be given a plan by your contact, and then you will be sent off to explore the site. In your first few days of service you will likely be working inside the centre, with the injured or sick animals. You may be preparing food, cleaning the animal housing, pools and other areas. After you have found your feet and completed your training you will start working on the sea, to help capture animals in need of care. You’ll also start adding beach and marine projects to your repertoire, such as securing penguin breeding grounds or releasing recovered animals into the wild.
A normal working day starts around 8 am and ends at around 17:30 pm across five days, whether that is weekdays, weekends or public holidays. A lot of our volunteers find that renting a car together for the duration of their program is a good idea, as the commute via public transport can be long and complicated. You don’t want to eat into your free time sitting on the bus! Speaking of free time, you may wish to spend it relaxing on one of the many beaches in the area, exploring Table Mountain National Park, or shopping in Cape Town.