The official opening of the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary in Kleinbaai near Gansbaai took place this afternoon, 26 February 2015. Brainchild of Wilfred Chivell of Dyer Island Conservation Trust, a man well-known for the tremendous role he plays in the conservation of and research into the Great White Shark, the sanctuary is a world-class facility and is set to become a major tourist attraction in the Overberg. Wilfred has also been awarded the Birdlife Eagle Award for “living out his passion for penguins”.
“We must value our people with passion and vision.” Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom
Guest speakers included Mayor of the Overstrand, Nicolette Botha-Guthrie, Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, Grinrod’s Dr Andrew Venter, Ryan Loubscher of Volkswagen South Africa and Tim Appleton MBE, who runs the largest bird fair in the world in Rutland Waters in the UK and who is also the keynote speaker at the Walker Bay Bird Fair currently being held in Stanford.
“ Penguins are fascinating creatures, intriguing scientists and tourists alike … these charismatic creatures delight the eye and captivate the heart.” The late Dr Phil Hockey, regarded as Africa’s top ornithologist.
The African Penguin is in dire need of conservation. In 1975 there were 25 000 breeding pairs on Dyer Island, today there are 600 pairs. The only successful breeding colony in the Cape is at Stoney Point near Betty’s Bay where the number of breeding pairs is increasing. In all the other colonies the numbers are drastically decreasing. Factors include oil spills, the destruction of the penguins’ habitat, the collection of eggs and the harvesting of guano.
“Without our natural heritage there is no future for any of us,” Derek Hanekom.
Wilfred Chivell’s original plan was to create a penguin sanctuary and rehabilitation centre using five containers and two pools. Thanks to a number of creative friends and colleagues and the sponsorship received from Grinrod and Volkswagen as well as a number of other organisations the original idea expanded and developed and the foundations were dug for the beautiful modern facility in September last year. Wilfred thanked the many passionate and dedicated people involved in making his dream a reality, included the builders who worked overtime to finish the building in so few months.
The facility has a large reception area which includes a ‘shop’ for penguin mementos and toys, a staff room, a medical room and administrative office and a sparkling kitchen for the preparation of the penguins’ ‘sushi’. The water in the pools comes from a local borehole and is recycled into the newly planted fynbos garden. The water is fresh, not salty, as during the cleaning process the penguins lose their bodily oils, which need to be replenished – alt would would inhibit this process. The sanctuary can accommodate up to 300 birds, and plans are in place for dealing with increased numbers in crisis situations.
Painted on the wall of the reception hall is a quote by Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmental and political activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner:
“Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds.”
Printed on the t-shirts of the volunteers were the words: Yes. We Can. Wilfred Chivell’s least favourite words are “We can’t”, “We can improve rehabilitation techniques , we can unite the people of the Overberg in a common cause for good, we can fund rehab research and foster effective science, we can get people to work together to prevent the extinction of species … Can SANCCOB and ABL save the African Penguin? No, they can’t. But we can do it – together.” – Wilfred Chivell
Photos and text by Viv von der Heyden