OWN CORRESPONDENT, Cape Town | Wednesday 11.45am.
MORE than 4500 penguins covered in oil after a spill off the country’s west coast have been transported from their colony on Robben Island to Cape Town for treatment.
“We expect at least 10000 more to be taken off the island by the weekend,” South African National Conservation for Coastal Birds manager Estelle van der Merwe said in a statement.
Conservationists from Britain and the US began arriving in South Africa Tuesday to assist with the cleaning and treatment of penguins affected by the spill, caused when a sunken cargo ship began leaking its cargo of 1_ 300 tonnes of oil.
The oil is threatening Dassen Island, north of Robben Island, with 200 penguins from that colony reported to have come into contact with the oil, Van der Merwe said.
“Dassen Island is host to a colony of 50000 penguins (including chicks). Together with the 20000 penguins (including chicks) nesting on Robben Island, this makes up nearly half of the world’s total population of African penguins,” she said.
The African penguin is listed as a threatened species.
The SANCCOB centre has also received 22 oiled Bank Cormorant chicks and adult, Van der Merwe said. The Bank Cormorant is listed as endangered.
Only 160 penguins have been rescued from Robben Island untouched by oil. They will be driven late Tuesday to the east coast city of Port Elizabeth where they will be released to swim back to their colony.
“The penguins are expected to take between 10 and 12 days to swim back to Cape Town, and it is hoped that by then the beaches and sea will be cleared of oil,” the statement said.
The Panama-registered bulk ore carrier, the Treasure, sank on Friday as it was being towed from its anchor off Robben Island.