Thursday, January 15, 2015

One African penguin’s story highlights plight of endangered species

By Hendrik Sybrandy

An African penguin named Tess is recovering from successful skin cancer surgery at a zoo in the U.S. state of Colorado. At 40 years old, Tess is currently the oldest African penguin in captivity on the planet. This breed is quickly diminishing in numbers in the wild due to climate change, among other factors. CCTV America’s Hendrik Sybrandy reported this story from Pueblo, Colorado.
Tess, whose friend and fellow African penguin Mongo is her constant companion, is the star of the show at the Pueblo, Colorado zoo.

She had a recent health scare when doctors discovered skin cancer on her face and was treated with advanced and targeted radiation therapy at Colorado State University’s veterinary hospital. “She was able to be asleep for the whole procedure, didn’t feel a thing, and has responded very well to the therapy,” Matt Johnston, a Colorado State University veterinarian said.

Tess’ vet said climate change has altered ocean currents off the southern and western coasts of Africa where the penguins live, forcing the birds to swim up to 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) to get the sardines and anchovies they depend on. “What used to be a quick jaunt into the ocean and a five kilometer (3.1 miles) swim, which is nothing for a penguin, is now turning into a marathon. When they don’t have energy sources they can’t breed as well. There’s young that are not being fed as well. The African penguins, at the current predictions, will be extinct within the next 20 years,” Johnston said.
There are now fewer than 200,000 African penguins in the wild, compared to several million in the past.

Johnston said he hoped Tess’ story leads to action to stop climate change. “I like to think of her as an ambassador for awareness,” he said.


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