Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rescued penguins return to the wild

Robben Island's rocky, wind-swept shores and the Atlantic's expanses were intimidating for a penguin after weeks of pens and pools.

So, when dozens of the birds abandoned as chicks by their parents and raised by humans were released back into the wild on Wednesday, most at first huddled nervously together in the frigid waters. One even tried to jump back into the cardboard box in which it had been carried to the island. But they rapidly grew used to freedom and swam off.
Jardine's South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, which rescued 800 chicks in October, took about 60 of the birds to the waters around Robben Island, Nelson Mandela's former prison and now home to a large colony of African penguins.

Most of the others were already back in the sea as part of a drive by the conservation group to boost fragile populations of the bird, whose survival is threatened by oil spills and dwindling fish stocks.

On Tuesday, the penguins were taken to the island on a tourist boat and released with little ceremony three at a time from cardboard boxes.

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