Treated penguin returns to the wild

An African penguin undergoes a tricky procedure to remove a R2 coin from its stomach.

The SA National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) successfully released a rehabilitated African penguin after removing a R2 coin from its stomach with an endoscopic procedure last month.

The penguin was admitted as a chick on Thursday June 22, from the Stony Point penguin colony in Betty’s Bay, with the help of CapeNature Penguin Rangers.

It was in a poor condition and showed signs of mild feather loss. After an initial assessment by Sanccob staff, the chick was admitted to Sanccob’s Chick Rearing Unit, which is a specialised unit for hand-rearing seabird chicks.

Under Sanccob’s care, the chick’s general condition improved but a few weeks later it started to regurgitate its fish.

As a cause for concern, the bird was taken for radiography which indicated a round, foreign object in the bird’s stomach.

Sanccob’s clinical veterinarian, Dr David Roberts, said, “We took a number of X-rays from various angles which clearly indicated a bright white, metallic opacity and, to our amazement, we quickly realised that it could only be a coin.”

Initially, a stomach pump technique was administered to allow the penguin to regurgitate the coin but the procedure was without success. Sanccob then connected with Karl Storz Endoscopy South Africa, who provided the equipment needed for a minimally invasive procedure.

Dr Stephen van der Spuy, Sanccob’s executive director who is also a qualified veterinarian, stepped in to drive the endoscope.

“It was a tricky procedure that required adept manoeuvring of the device in order to safely and accurately remove the R2 coin from the penguin’s stomach.

“The procedure took approximately one hour and we were happy to recover the coin in the end,” said Dr Roberts.

After the coin had been removed, the penguin was put on a treatment regime to treat some minor stomach ulcers and also to attain a healthy body condition.

On Thursday September 14, the penguin was fully cleared by the veterinary team and was released back into the wild.

The R2 coin removed from the penguin has been placed on Sanccob’s online auction, which is a fundraising mechanism that has assisted the organisation to auction products and services garnered from supporting corporates and small businesses.

Funds raised enable Sanccob to continue its vital seabird rescue and rehabilitation work.