African Penguin Chick Bolstering Project

The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is the only penguin species to naturally occur on the
African continent. It was once one of South Africa’s most abundant seabirds, but has suffered a massive population decline. During the early 20th century the population was estimated at one million breeding pairs, however, today the total estimate is less than 23 000 breeding pairs with only 17 277 breeding pairs recorded in South Africa in 2016 (South African Department of Environmental Affairs: Oceans and Coasts). As such, the present population represents approximately only 2.3% of its prevalence some 80 years ago and, most worryingly, the decrease is continuing. Due to its rapid decline, this indicator species was listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2010.
The decline of the penguin population is further exacerbated by the mass abandonment of penguin eggs and chicks that hatch late in the season during the adult penguins’ annual moult. As a result, chicks that have yet to fledge are abandoned and face starvation unless SANCCOB and its conservation partners intervene by rescuing the abandoned eggs and chicks and admitting them to SANCCOB’s centres.

The African Penguin Chick Bolstering Project was established in 2006 to arrest and reverse the decline of the African penguin population by rescuing and releasing hand-reared chicks back into the wild, rescuing penguin eggs for hatching and hand-rearing, and conducting related research. Annually, SANCCOB admits 700 to 900 abandoned African penguin eggs and ill, injured and abandoned chicks to its centres. The project is recognised globally as one of the most successful conservation initiatives to reverse the decline of the endangered species. Since the project’s inception, SANCCOB and its partners have successfully hand-reared and released more than 4 500 chicks back into the wild

Mabula Ground Hornbill Project

The Southern Ground-Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri), also known as the Thunder Bird, faces a number of escalating anthropogenic threats in southern Africa. Persecution for their window-breaking habits, accidental poisoning by incorrectly used agricultural pesticides, malicious and secondary poisoning , electrocution, trade for aviculture and traditional medicine and rituals, and the ubiquitous loss of habitat and resultant loss of suitable nest trees. This, coupled with a slow breeding rate, complex social and cooperative breeding structure, is resulting in the swift decline of this long-lived species beyond the borders of the largest formally protected areas.
The Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project, has over the past two decades trialled a number of conservation techniques and is now the lead agency for the conservation of the species. No single action will not be sufficient and so the Project employs a multi-pronged, and multi-disciplinary, approach to slow and then reverse the decline that includes reintroductions using redundant second-hatched chicks into areas where the species is locally extinct; monitoring populations beyond protected areas, conservation capacity building; sound conservation biology research (genetics/artificial nests/hormone); extensive education and awareness campaigns working locally with rural schools, traditional authorities and farmer committees and nationally through the available media; threat mitigation at a territory scale through a community custodianship programme; and development of a national artificial nest programme. This culturally and ecologically important flagship species is also an excellent starting point for conversation about greater conservation issues.