Jane Walker is off to South Africa this summer. But she’s not going to follow the England football team in the World Cup or going on safari. She’s going for the penguins.
Jane loves penguins. She works at Living Coasts, Torquay’s coastal zoo, where, as one of the penguin patrollers, it’s her job to make sure visitors mix happily with the free-ranging penguins, which now number over 100.
Jane told the Devon Week: “I started collecting all sorts of things to do with penguins when I was about 10 years old and I have loved them ever since. I find penguins completely fascinating. They are amazing creatures – and they survive in such a wide range of habitats and climates. They are not just birds of ice and snow – people are often surprised when they find that there are penguins at Living Coasts that come from Africa.
“I’ve seen them in the wild before – yellow eyed penguins in New Zealand and little penguins in both New Zealand and Australia. My ambition is to see all 17 species in the wild.”
Jane, from Newton Abbot, is making the 9,600km (6,000 mile) trip with her husband Chaz.
“I am going with him to three of the World Cup matches, although I don’t like football that much,” she said. “While we are out there I am taking the opportunity to spend time at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds – SANCCOB – to find out more about the work they do, in particular, Project Penguin. We started to plan the trip as soon as it was announced that the World Cup was going to be held in South Africa.”
SANCCOB, is a non-profit seabird rehabilitation centre based in Cape Town. Living Coasts, itself a registered charity, helps to support SANCCOB with donations. The two wildlife bodies worked together to rescue the eggs of endangered bank cormorants.
Living Coasts contributes to Project Penguin, a conservation and research programme set up by Bristol Zoo Gardens in collaboration with SANCCOB, the University of Cape Town’s Animal Demography Unit, the South African government, Cape Nature and other local and international partners. It aims to find a way to artificially establish new penguin colonies in places closer to the fish stocks, and thus more suitable for the penguins’ long-term survival.
Living Coasts is also part of the European Stud Book for African penguins, which means that breeding is coordinated with collections across Europe. African penguin colonies are declining at an alarming rate, mainly due to a lack of food caused by over-fishing and by the movement of fish stocks away from the colonies – the latter quite possibly as a result of global climate change.
For more information pop along to the Living Coasts website or ring 01803 202470.
(from a press release)
(image: Jane Walker on penguin patrol)
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