Friends Learning From Each Other
More about the penguins!


hi Tevin and Gunnar today is 21 C in Cape Town - Nikita and Melissa and Dylan send their love. You can look on our website for more information about our Penquin project and you will see a picture of Dylans school.

Mrs. Visser


Dear Dylan, Melissa, and Nikita,

The temperature here today is 79F. That's 26C. We added two more columns to our chart. They are the difference between the temperatures here and in Cape Town. We made one column for F and one for C. Today it was 9F warmer in Maryland than Cape Town.

Thank you for putting your website address on the computer. Now the world wide internet can see your website. We liked the picture of your school. We looked at picture of Cape Town in a book. Was that Table Mountain behind it?

Tevin and his Grandmother saw a program on TV about oil spills. It told how to clean up oil spills by using panty hose filled with real human hair. The hair absorbed the oil. This seemed to be a better way than using rags to clean up the oil.

Please write back tomorrow.

Tevin and Gunnar

Hi Patti

My time volunteering for SANCOB (South African National Conservation of Coastal Birds) was the most interesting thing I have ever experienced. Apart from working with the beautiful penguins hands-on, I got to meet so many interesting people, from California to right here in Cape Town.

When I found out about the terrible oiling of the penguins because of a ship, the Treasure, that sank just outside our harbour, I really wanted to help. I spent every day of my June holiday helping, up to 10 hours a day. At first I was a regular volunteer, helping out with odd jobs like cleaning penguin pools, and carrying buckets, but then I was tranferred to the washing room and became an experienced "washer".

Washing a single penguin takes 20-30 minutes, depending on how much oil the bird has on it. You have to have two people to wash a penguin- one to be the washer, and the other the handler. The handler picks up a bird from the appropriate pen, brings it to the washing room, and you begin the process. Penguins are washed in little tubs, and a soapy solution is added to warm water in order to clean off the oil. Each penguin uses about 6 tubs before it is clean.

Washing a penguin is not that difficult, you just have to know how to handle the bird- keep it calm and prevent it from biting you- and you have to know how the get the oil off. Generally, in the first tub you get rid off the excess oil, and then you have to work on specific problem areas where oil collects. For the head region, we used toothbrushes to scrape away the oil, and for the rest of the body you use your hands (with gloves!). You had to remember that the penguins are wild creatures that are not used to being handled by humans. I still have several scars on my hands from penguin bites. Penguins are delicate creatures- you have to be a very gentle handler because otherwise the penguins could die of shock.

I learnt very valuable techniques from an IFAW representative from California (International Fund for Animal Welfare). She taught me that when a penguin struggles while being washed, it just needs a bit of time to relax before the stressing process is continued. This technique prevented a lot of deaths in the wash- room because penguins were kept calm and stable.

When the penguin is cleaned, it goes through the stabilisation process. Vitamins and glucose are injected into the penguin to help it survive, and then the penguin has to stay in pens for about another 3 weeks before it can be returned to its natural habitat. Penguins can only be returned to their islands when their feathers are completely waterproof, they are healthy, and they can eat well again.

When the oil was still being cleared from around the various islands where the penguins live, clean penguins were released on the South-East coast of the country (near Port Elizabeth) so that they could swim back to Cape Town and be home by the time the oil has been cleared. Transmitters were put on some penguins, so that we could track their course on computers.

I am very sad that the process is nearly complete, but happy that so many dedicated volunteers could save a species as precious as the penguin.


P.S. I am happy to answer any more questions.
Tracey Bruton


Dear Tracey,

Thank you for your letter about the penguins. It was a great letter.

Why do you have a holiday in June? My birthday is on June 11th. Did you clean the penguins on my birthday? How many penguins did you clean each day? Did you meet some friends while cleaning the penguins from any place besides California? Please write back and answer my questions.



Dear Tracey,

Thank you for your letter. We learned a lot from you. I have more questions. Why do the penguins go through 6 tubs? How many volunteers helped clean the penguins? Were there people coming from other countries to help clean the penguins not including the USA?

I hope you write back soon.

Tevin and Mrs. Weeg

Back More

| home | greetings | new | kids | teachers | visitors | search |

Patti Weeg

September 8, 2000