Posts Tagged ‘The Great Penguin Rescue’

14th Anniversary Of The Great Penguin Rescue

June 23, 2014

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the rescuing of 40,000 African penguins following the Treasure oil spill in 2000 – an animal rescue that still stands as the largest and most successful ever undertaken.

African penguins oiled in the June 23, 2000 Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Tony Van Dalsen

African penguins oiled in the June 23, 2000 Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Tony Van Dalsen

All told thousands of professionals and volunteers managed to save 90% of the 19,000 penguins that were oiled, and 95% of the 38,500 penguins that were handled.

Release of cleaned and rehabilitated African penguins following the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. (The pink spots are a temporary dye to indicate the birds are ready for release, and to help researchers spot them on their islands.) Photo by Tony Van Dalsen, DAFF

Release of cleaned and rehabilitated African penguins following the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. (The pink spots are a temporary dye to indicate the birds are ready for release, and to help researchers spot them on their islands.) Photo by Tony Van Dalsen, DAFF

In addition to the 19,000 oiled birds, another 19,500 unoiled penguins were moved out of the path of the rapidly approaching oil slick.  This incredible undertaking is well documented in Dyan DeNapoli’s book, The Great Penguin Rescue.


Interview With The Penguin Lady

November 19, 2011

Dyan deNapoli, also known as the “The Penguin Lady,” worked for years as the senior penguin aquarist at the New England Aquarium. Today she is an outspoken activist for animal rights, recently presenting at the TEDxBoston conference. In 2000, deNapoli, who grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts traveled to South Africa as part of an international team of experts to save 40,000 penguins from an oil spill after a vessel called “The Treasure” capsized. Within three months, 95 percent of the birds were saved and released back to their natural habitat — inspiring deNapoli’s recently published book, “The Great Penguin Rescue”.

Recently deNapoli took time out from her busy schedule to speak about her work with penguins and how she became the “Penguin Lady”.

How did you become ‘The Penguin Lady’?

Penguin Lady - Dyan diNapoli

I went back to school in 1992 to get a [Bachelor of Science degree] in animal science. I was studying veterinary nursing, and wanted to do that since I was 5, so I went back to school at age 32 to do that. During the course of my education, I worked with the penguins everyday for four months. Once I met them, I was enchanted. They’re really engaging. They have a lot of personality. I applied to the New England Aquarium and gained a position there.

In the wild, African penguins live 10 or 20 years but at the aquarium, they can double or triple their life expectancy. We had this one penguin named Robin, who was kind of famous. She lived to be 39 years old.

Are penguins intelligent?

They’re very intelligent and very adaptable. One of the examples of that is, when we were in South Africa for the rescue, there had been another oil rescue six years before. During that they had to force feed the penguins because they’re wild … they taught them how to take food freely. It took them a few days to figure it out. During the “Treasure” rescue, we taught them how to pre-feed again but the really interesting thing was the first birds to make that transition were the ones that had the band from the oil spill six before. They remembered; it clicked with them … It shows me just how smart they are.

Your local TED talk was about being vigilant in the rescue of animals. Are people opposed to that?

I think during the BP oil spill (in 2010), which most of the world probably knows about, this [aquatic expert] was quoted in Seagull Magazine saying we should just euthanize these birds because studies show 1 percent survive after being released … But [this expert] was quoting research that was 15 years old from one very specific series …When I read this article and saw it was being quoted in a lot of places, I got very worked up.

I think its important for people to know this is not accurate information for the most part. These rescue efforts are valid [and] worthwhile. We’re working with species that has a very high survivability rate. If we know they’re endangered, it’s imperative we take the time and the money to put all these resources towards rescuing these animals.

What would you say to children who dream of working with animals?

I always loved animals and I knew I wanted to work with them and the only option I knew was being a veterinarian. But I wasn’t good at math so I was scared off. I didn’t know … about the field of ethology (animal behavior) — that’s what I was really fascinated by.

I would tell kids who are interested to study in your science classes and to speak to people that are in a field that is interesting to you. Find out what they studied, what they know … to find out the realities of working in the field. I think people might look at working with dolphins and penguins as very glamorous, but it’s actually smelly, dirty, exhausting work. It’s good to volunteer and find out if it’s a good field you.

Penguin Gifts, Toys and Fun

September 16, 2011

Well, it’s that time of the year again for Penguin Place.  About a month after the biggie N.Y. Gift Show the flow of our new penguin items that the UPS (lady) and Fed Ex (man) go from a trickle to Hurricane Irene.  Monday there were 10 boxes left at the bottom of my stairs (8 were penguin Halloween costumes), Tuesday 6, Wednesday 5 and yesterday 9 boxes of penguin goodies.  Figure on average each box has 2 or three different penguin plush, toys, figurines, books, jewelry, etc for me to carry up four flights of stairs, unpack, fold, inventory, put on the shelves, scan, take pictures, photoshop, write copy and add to the website.  So you want to have your own penguin store?  Just off the top of my head this week alone we’ve added penguin baby booties, plush, fancy schmancy embroidered pillows and dish towels, pencil sharpeners, kids slippers, five different types of penguin bags from Bungalow 360, a pewter picture frame, a table lamp, an oven mitt, baby bib, penguin spreader set and a penguin rescue helicopter toy, with more on the way.

Penguin Clutch Bag from Bungalow 360

The Great Penguin Rescue

September 12, 2011

Penguin Place is proud and pleased to announce that we are offering Dyan deNapoli’s wonderfully told epic of penguin passion, proving that people can make a profound difference against all odds in making a positive impact on wildlife. deNapoli’s first hand account of the rescue of penguins (all of whom fought against their rescuers), is a story that needed to be told, read and understood.   On June 23, 2000, the iron-ore carrier MV Treasure, en route from Brazil to China, foundered off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, spilling 1,300 tons of oil into the ocean and contaminating the habitat of 75,000 penguins. Realizing thJuneat 41 percent of the world’s population of African penguins could perish, local conservation officials immediately launched a massive rescue operation, and 12,500 volunteers from around the globe rushed to South Africa in hopes of saving the imperiled birds.Serving as a rehabilitation manager during the initial phase of the three-month rescue effort, Dyan deNapoli—better known as “the Penguin Lady” for her extensive work with penguins—and fellow volunteers de-oiled, nursed back to health, and released into the wild nearly all of the affected birds. Now, at the tenth anniversary of the disaster, deNapoli recounts this extraordinary true story of the world’s largest and most successful wildlife rescue. When she first entered the enormous warehouse housing most of the 19,000 oiled penguins, the birds’ total silence told deNapoli all she needed to know about the extent of their trauma. African penguins are very vocal by nature, prone to extended fits of raucous, competitive braying during territorial displays and pair-bonding rituals, but these poor creatures now stood silently, shoulder to shoulder, in a state of shock. DeNapoli vividly details the harrowing rescue process and the heartbreaking scenarios she came up against alongside thousands of volunteers: unforgettable images of them laboriously scrubbing the oil from every penguin feather and force-feeding each individually; the excruciatingly painful penguin bites every volunteer received; and the wrenching decisions about birds too ill to survive. She draws readers headfirst into the exhausting physical and emotional experience and brings to life the cast of remarkable characters—from Big Mike, a compassionate Jiu-Jitsu champion with a booming voice, who worked every day of the rescue effort; to a man named Welcome, aka “the Penguin Whisperer,” who had the amazing ability to calm any penguin he held in his arms; to Louis, a seventeen-year-old medical student who created a new formula for the highly effective degreaser used by the rescue mission—whose historic and heroic efforts saved the birds from near extinction. The extraordinary international collaboration of scientists, zookeepers, animal rescue groups, and thousands of concerned individuals helped save the African penguins—recently declared an endangered species—from an all-too-common man-made disaster.

Diane deNapoli is a penguins best friend

DeNapoli’s heartwarming and riveting story is not just a portrait of these captivating birds, nor is it merely a cautionary tale about the environment. It is also an inspirational chronicle of how following one’s passion can lead to unexpected, rewarding adventures—and illustrates not only how people from around the world can unite for a greater purpose, but how they can be extraordinarily successful when doing so. The Great Penguin Rescue will inspire readers to believe they can make a difference.  Here’s a clip of Ms. deNapoli recently giving a lecture.