Saving Seabirds in South Africa

Hello again! Welcome back to another article written in the heart of South Africa, today is all about African Seabirds!

Seabirds In South Africa

  • African Penguin

  • Flesh-footed Shearwater

  • Leach's Storm Petrel

  • White-faced Storm Petrel

  • Great White Pelican

  • Red-billed Tropicbird

  • Australasian Gannet

  • Cape Gannet

  • Cape Cormorant

  • Bank Cormorant

  • Crowned Cormorant

  • White-breasted Cormorant

  • Kelp Gull "Cape Gull

  • Hartlaub's Gull

  • Franklin's Gull

  • Sabine's Gull

  • Caspian Tern

  • Antarctic Tern

  • Swift Tern

More information on the above seabirds can be found here!

Unfortunately, seabirds face many dangers which may contribute to the extinction of these incredible creatures, these include overfishing, oil leaks, climate change, invasive species, ingestion of microplastics, harvesting and disturbances in breeding and nesting areas.

Fortunately, some people dedicate their lives to helping these stunning creatures, the organization we will be focusing on in this article is The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a registered non-profit organization that holds a primary object to “reverse the decline of seabird population through the rescue, rehabilitation and release of ill, injured, abandoned and oiled seabirds” ( and one of the internationally recognized leaders in oiled wildlife response, rehabilitation and chick-rearing.

The organization is spread over the Western and Eastern Cape. They help up to 2500 seabirds every year where no oil spills occur, around 1500 of those are African penguins and the remainder include a variety of cormorants species, terns, pelagic birds and other coastal birds with an average of 24 different species safely rehabilitated every year!


What Is SANCCOB Involved In?

  • Rescue

  • Rehabilitation

  • Chick-rearing

  • Oiled Wildlife Preparedness & Response

  • Education

  • Training

  • Research

  • Penguin & Seabird Rangers

And guess what, YOU can be involved too!

SANCCOB offers incredible volunteer programs to both local and international helpers!



All the Information Needed for International Volunteers

Why Does SANCCOB Need Volunteers?

With a limited staff component, SANCCOB relies heavily on the support of volunteers to achieve its mission.

Volunteers become an extension of the staff and are an integral part of the daily running of the centres. Not only do volunteers assist with the hands-on work with the seabirds, but they also assist in all functions at the centre such as marketing, procurement and fundraising.


Peak Volunteering Time

There is of course no way to guarantee when species will specifically need help, the images below are based on a trend reading from 2010 – 2016.


Shifts & Commitments

While SANCCOB is open 365 days a year, they do require a minimum commitment of 6 weeks on a full-time basis, this would be from 08:00 – 17:30, 5 days a week (can include weekends/holidays) with a 1h lunch break and 2 tea breaks.


Activities You Can Expect to Partake In

As a volunteer, there are different sections you can partake in, you can expect to work in each section at least once a week.

The different sections include:

  • Food Preparation/Kitchen: Area responsible for fish defrosting, preparation of fluids/formula and cleaning of food preparation and feeding equipment.

  • Laundry: Area responsible for the washing and drying of laundry.

  • Cleaning Station: Area responsible for the cleaning of large equipment with the use of a high-pressure hose. For example, mats from bird enclosures and bird crates.

  • Aviary: Enclosures designated for flying birds that require daily cleaning of the enclosure and feeding of the birds (free feeding). Some birds may require hydration (tubing), medication or force-feeding.

  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU): Staff and interns are mostly responsible for the care of birds in the ICU, but volunteers may be asked to assist with cleaning in ICU.

  • Rehabilitation Pens: Main enclosures for birds undergoing rehabilitation, these are mostly African penguins. Areas require daily cleaning and feeding birds (force-feeding). Some birds may require hydration (tubing) and medication.

  • Home Pen: Exhibit for permanent and long-term temporary birds at SANCCOB. Assisting in the maintenance of the exhibit, including scrubbing rocks, raking sand and food preparation.

  • Jobs: Various jobs are required around the centre, that are crucial in the daily running of the rehabilitation centre. Jobs could include general maintenance or cleaning duties.



The Costs & Benefits

  • The cost of the programme is R3500 (£178) for the 6 weeks (minimum period) with the opportunity to add additional weeks for R550 (£28) per week.

  • You get a hands-on experience working with endangered penguins and other seabirds at the world-renowned SANCCOB Seabird Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

  • No previous experience is needed. All required training will be done at SANCCOB.

  • You will be giving something back to the environment and will learn about different aspects of seabird rehabilitation; while actively partaking in the conservation of endangered seabirds.

  • You will develop skills within the team while meeting new people.

  • You can add this epic volunteer experience to your cv or resume.

  • You receive 2 free volunteer t-shirts.

  • You are invited to participate in a seabird releases (bird and weather depending) after being part of the rehabilitation process.

  • You will get a certificate of appreciation upon completion of the programme.


6 Ways How YOU Can Help SANCCOB Save Seabirds!

If you are not from South Africa and are unable to volunteer but you would still like to help SANCCOB save seabirds, there are a bunch of other things you can do!

1. Join in on SANCCOBS Fun-run on the 24th of September, 2021

Here is the link to sign up:

Registration cost: R50 (£2.50)

2. Buy some cool merchandise at their online shop

You can Shop online here:

3. Adopt a Penguin

Of course you don’t get to take it home with you, but you do get to save a little fella’s life!

You can choose between adopting a SANCCOB mascot, adopt and name a penguin of your choice, or adopt a penguin egg which will finance its hatching, caretaking and release into the wild!

If a loved one’s birthday is coming up and you’re beat for a gift, why not adopt a baby penguin for them and name it after them!

You can adopt a penguin at

4. Fundraise

You can be as creative as you want with this one, host a fun-run, a swimming race, a dress-up costume etc. and set up a fundraiser for SANCCOB, here is an example of an ongoing fundraiser:

If this sounds like something you are interested in, you can sign up here:

5. Buy some stuff for them off their Wishlist

There is no minimum or maximum items to buy, but even the smallest bit goes a long way!

SANCCOB Wishlist:

6. Spread the word

We all know how much power “word-of-mouth” has, so if you cannot contribute in the above ways then you can help out by teaching others how to create a safe environment for seabirds (i.e. how to correctly recycle and join beach clean-ups) as well as sharing the information above with others who may be able to participate.


Ways You Can Help Seabirds In Your Daily Lives

  • Keep your lights off at night if you are in a seabird area; the bright lights tend to frighten them and can distract them, causing them to fly into the ground instead of out to sea.

  • Watch out for grounded seabirds. If you do find one, gently pick it up from behind with a towel, carefully wrap the bird completely around its back, wings and head. Place in a ventilated container in a quiet location until you can bring it to a rehabilitation center.

  • Keep your pets on leashes when walking on the beach.

  • Dispose of your trash/rubbish properly.

  • Reduce your plastic use, especially single use plastics - this protects other animals too!

  • Partake in ethical seafood consumption.


Thank you for taking the time to read through this article, I hope it has inspired you to join in the fight of protecting seabirds and our environment.

If we all do a little bit, it can go a long way!


Written by Candice Stratford (@candystrats)

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