A penguin’s second chance after a rocky start

 
 
 

Was Roxy thrown overboard? Northern rockhopper penguins are native to a group of remote islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. So how she arrived on South African shores is the subject of speculation. Marine conservationists believe that fishermen at sea captured and kept her and others on board, bound with wire and cables. To dodge the repercussions of this illegal activity when they approached local harbours, the crew may have tossed the penguin back into the ocean. Injured and stranded on foreign land, only the luckiest birds survive this ordeal. Roxy is one of them.

Her journey of rehabilitation started at SANCCOB, a Western Cape-based NGO that rescues seabirds. With medical and dietary care, Roxy has recovered. Even so, she can never go home as she’s been exposed to new bacteria. Returning to her habitat could spread viruses that other wild animals aren’t immune to. This has the potential to wipe out entire colonies, with disastrous results for the ecosystem. Northern rockhoppers are already endangered. Since the 1950s, their population has declined by 90 percent. Protecting them is imperative.

In Cape Town, nine rockhoppers have found a home at the Two Oceans Aquarium. To mimic their natural habitat, the establishment created a large kelp forest and sandy beach. Roxy has lived here since 2003. She’s paired with Grommet, and the inseparable couple have produced three chicks – Clax, Ms Harold Custard, and Chippy-Goodwill. Despite Roxy’s rough journey at sea, the penguin now has another shot at life.