Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Penguin Lady: Local teaches new generation to care about animals

Georgetown resident Dyan de Napoli will never forget the day she first entered a South African warehouse in 2000 to work as a rehabilitation manager with the first team of penguin experts working to save 20,000 penguins. The flightless birds were covered with oil when the iron ore ship MV Treasure sank near their breeding grounds.

“The smell hit me like a wall and made me gag,’” says de Napoli. “It was this putrid smell of oil, guano, sardines, human sweat, coal dust and food being cooked for volunteers. Before returning home I had to throw away my clothes, shoes and backpack or there would have been a riot on the plane.”

Out of 20,000 oiled birds, 91 percent were successfully rehabilitated and returned to the wild, the largest number of a single species ever to be rescued and rehabilitated. She is writing a book on her experiences during the massive international rescue effort.

Fortunately for the penguins, a 17-year-old student had invented a first-stage degreaser one year before the spill, says de Napoli.

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