Penguins get new wheels

PORT ELIZABETH – It started with a lost seabird found on the premises of Isuzu Motors South Africa’s Struandale vehicle manufacturing plant that led to the company supporting the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) with an Isuzu bakkie.

The bakkie will be playing a critical role in the rescue and transportation of endangered African penguin chicks and adult penguins, as well as other seabirds, for various rehabilitation-focused conservation work.

Earlier this year a juvenile Cape Gannet was found by an employee at Isuzu. The weak and disorientated bird was rescued by members of SANCCOB, who responded to the call from Isuzu. After less than a month of treatment the bird was healthy enough to be released back to its habitat.

Isuzu’s Corporate Communications Manager, Gishma Johnson, said the employee who initially rescued the Cape Gannet at the plant did not know the bird was an endangered species.

“In chatting to the SANCCOB staff we realised that many seabirds are endangered due to pollution, especially plastics that end up in the ocean. As an environmentally conscious manufacturer with extensive waste management programmes, we were happy to support SANCCOB in the valuable work they do,” Johnson said.

SANCCOB Eastern Cape manager, Stacey Webb, said the bakkie will be put to good use and comes at just the right time as the existing vehicle of the organisation was becoming unreliable and expensive to maintain.

“The new bakkie will enable us to continue to rescue, rehabilitate and release seabirds, and contribute towards saving the endangered African penguin and other seabirds. We are very grateful for the partnership with Isuzu,” said Webb.

In celebration of International African Penguin Awareness Day over the weekend, Isuzu staff and their families witnessed the first lot of penguins to be released in an Isuzu bakkie.

“The beach release is a special occasion and the penguins have been swim-training for three hours daily to safely make it to Bird Island,” said Webb.

Employees and their families were also involved in the recent International Coastal Clean-up Day on the Cape Recife coast, where they filled a one-ton Isuzu bakkie with waste found on the beach – including plastic, glass, gut, rope, metal and tins.

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