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Chick Bolstering Project

sancobb_chick_bolsteringThe Chick Bolstering Project, is a multi-partner project which contributes towards saving the African penguin, through bolstering abandoned and weak chicks and rearing chicks from eggs.  The research element of the project focuses on foraging behaviour of juvenile penguins, and a long term goal of the project is to establish the viability of an artificial colony for African penguins along the South African coast line.


Chick Rearing Unit
The project entered a new era at the end of 2011 when SANCCOB opened a Chick Rearing Unit at our facility in Cape Town in line with one of the objectives of the project which is to build local expertise to hand-rear chicks from eggs.  

At a meeting on 6 March 2012, the existing goals of the project were evaluated and the partners and a broader group agreed that the existing
goals should remain in place, but be adjusted to incorporate the new thinking which came to the fore at the meeting.

Project Objectives

  • assessing the breeding fidelity to rearing and release site of African penguin chicks
  • identify the factors that are needed to establish new, sustainable colonies
  • addressing the loss of African penguins by supplementing wild colonies with locally hand-reared birds
  • increasing of local capacity to hand rear African penguins for release into the wild at fledgling stage


SANCCOB is the Administrator of the project and has been appointed the co-ordinators/administrator of the broader working group, which will function cohesively in anticipation of an official working group being put in place under the auspices of the Biodiversity Management Plan for the species (BMP-S).

During the early summer months of 2006 and 2007, large numbers of African penguin chicks were abandoned by their moulting parents. CapeNature, SANCCOB and other partners decided to intervene by rescuing, hand-rearing and releasing these orphaned chicks. Between 2006 and 2008, a total of 1 424 chicks were admitted to SANCCOB for hand rearing and 742 out of a total of 1 194 chicks that were released (85.66%) were banded. 

Evidence from recent research suggests that introduction of fledgling chicks has a significant impact on conserving wild populations (Barham et al 2008). Chicks which have been hand reared and released have shown higher survivorship to breeding age and higher fecundity than other birds. This therefore suggests that increasing the number of fledgling birds using hand-rearing as a tool to aid wild populations could help arrest the decline in overall numbers.
As an ongoing effort by SANCCOB and our partners, the overall structure of the Chick Bolstering Project has several fundable components, including costs associated with rescuing and rearing of chicks during periods of mass abandonment, supporting the Chick Rearing Unit, the funding of tracking devices and research into the viability of establishing new wild colonies.

Project partners and supporters:

The CBP is a collaboration between SANCCOB (project administrators), the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, the Animal Demography Unit (UCT), DEA (Oceans and Coasts), CapeNature and  Robben Island Museum and SANParks, and is supported by Allwetterzoo Münster; Artis Zoo; Banham Zoo; Basel Zoo; Bristol Zoo Gardens; Burger’s Zoo; Cheyenne Mountain Zoo; Detroit Zoo; Dierenpark Amersfoort; Disney Rapid Relief Fund; Erlebnis Zoo Hannover; Florida Aquarium; Fort Wayne Kid’s Zoo; Georgia Aquarium; International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW); Jenkinson’s Aquarium; La Palmyre Zoo; Leiden Conservation Foundation; Leipzig Zoo; Le Pal Nature Foundation; Little Rock Zoo; Living Coasts; Memphis Zoo; Minnesota Zoo; Monterey Aquarium; National Aviary; Oceana; Océarium du Croisic; Old Mutual Staff Volunteer Fund Trust; Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium; Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies; Riverbanks Conservation Fund; SASIX; Sea Research Foundation (Mystic Aquarium); SeaWorld Busch Garden Conservation Fund and the SeaWorld Animal Crisis Fund; Steinhardt Aquarium; Toledo Zoo; US Fish and Wildlife Service; Wallace Global Fund; Wave Foundation, ZOOM Torino.

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