Whipsnade Keeper returns from international wildlife rescue
Wednesday 20 September 2000
WHIPSNADE PENGUIN KEEPER RETURNS FROM INTERNATIONAL RESCUE MISSION
One of the biggest-ever wildlife rescue operations has finally come to an end, following a massive ten-week clean-up operation. Since the huge oil spill from tanker The Treasure on June 23, volunteers from all over the world have teamed up in South Africa in a bid to save the black foot penguin species from an uncertain future.
John Baines, a senior keeper at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, has just returned from the disaster scene, following a three-week emergency rescue mission to help clean and rehabilitate the thousands of penguins affected.
With over 25 years of penguin husbandry experience, John was enlisted by charity IFAW (International Federation for Animal Welfare) who, together with SANCOBB (South African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), have managed the project. British Airways generously donated John’s ‘plane fare to South Africa to enable John to take part in this conservation project.
John joined the team of helpers releasing, at times, over 1,000 birds a day. When John arrived at the scene, over 15,000 adults and new-born penguin chicks were awaiting rescue, and in two weeks this figure reduced to 2,000. Most of the birds have now been successfully released into the wild.
"I’ve never seen so many penguins in my life", commented John. "At times it seemed an almost impossible task rehabilitating the penguins back to fitness, and it took around nine weeks to clean, feed and medically check each bird. It was certainly one of the most rewarding projects I have ever been involved in, and it really is an amazing feeling to now realise the huge success of the work this massive rescue operation has achieved."
The islands of Robben and Dassen near Cape Town, are home to the largest, and the world’s third largest colonies of the black foot penguin, and the impact of the oil spill leaves serious long term implications on the world population of the species. It also could not have happened at a worse time as penguin chicks had begun to hatch on the islands, making the rescue operation more critical then ever.
Contact Sue Wilks (tel: 020 7881 3232) for details
For further information, contact:
Susan Wilks or Alex Hall
Telephone: 020 7881 3232
Simon Hodge, Whipsnade Wild Animal Park
Telephone: 01582 872 171
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