Chick Bolstering Project

IMG 1062 credit Francois Louw SANCCOB

The Chick Bolstering Project is a multi-partner project which contributes towards saving the endangered 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.




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).

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 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

Project activities

DSC 0599-2Satellite transmitters: Evidence from recent research suggests that the introduction of fledgling chicks has a significant impact on conserving wild populations (Barham et al, 2008). In 2011 and 2012, Dr. Richard Sherley (Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town) attached satellite transmitters to eleven fledgling African penguins which were hand-reared by SANCCOB as part of the CBP. The rationale behind the deployment of the transmitters is to get a better understanding of the behaviour of African penguin chicks and insight into the mechanics that lead fledglings to either return to the colonies from where they were hatched or to disperse to other sites as adults.

IMG 2337  Francois Louw SANCCOBChick Rearing Unit: Part of the CBP, is the establishment of a first-ever Chick Rearing Unit (CRU) at SANCCOB in Cape Town to build local expertise to hand-rear abandoned African penguin chicks from eggs. Officially opened on 25 November 2011, the CRU is a culmination of extensive research on and fundraising for such a facility, and affirms SANCCOB’s commitment to reverse the decline of seabird populations through the rescue, rehabilitation and release of ill, injured, abandoned chicks and oiled African penguins and other vulnerable seabirds.

AP 248  Mathilde Bernasconi


Nursery: In July 2014, SANCCOB expanded its chick rearing operations by successfully constructing a nursery to supplement the existing CRU. The extra capacity enables SANCCOB to separate the older penguin chicks from the very young chicks to ensure that their husbandry needs are fully catered for in preparation for release back into the wild. The nursery has also created the much needed additional space to cater for the ever increasing requirement for wild abandoned eggs to be hatched and chicks to be reared. 

Project partners:

SANCCOB (project administrators), Bristol Zoological Society, the Animal Demography Unit (University of Cape Town), South African Department of Environmental Affairs (Oceans and Coasts), CapeNature,  Robben Island Museum, South African National Parks.


Allwetterzoo Münster, Artis Zoo, Banham Zoo, Basel Zoo, Birdworld Conservation Fund, Burger’s Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Dallas Zoo Society, Detroit Zoological Society, Dierenpark Amersfoort, Disney Rapid Relief Fund, Erlebnis Zoo Hannover, Florida Aquarium, Fort Wayne Kid’s Zoo, Georgia Aquarium, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, International Penguin and Marine Mammal Foundation, Jean Sainsbury Animal Welfare Trust, Jenkinson’s Aquarium, La Palmyre Zoo, Leiden Conservation Foundation, Leipzig Zoo, Le Pal Nature Foundation, Little Rock Zoo, Living Coasts, Maryland Zoo, Memphis Zoo, Minnesota Zoo, Monterey Aquarium, National Aviary, New England Aquarium, Océarium du Croisic, 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, Steinhardt Aquarium, Toledo Zoo, Wallace Global Fund, Wave Foundation, Wroclaw Zoo and ZOOM Torino.


Project related videos (Youtube):

Penguin Chicks Receive Special Treatment (SABC)

African Penguin Conservation in Cape Town

First Penguin Hatchling of 2015 at SANCCOB

Help Save Abandoned African Penguin Chicks - Michaela Strachan



Quick Cart

Currencies Selector

Join our Mailing List


Shopping cart

Cart empty


Read reviews about the Penguin Rehabilitation Center on