The penguins were released at Boulders Beach in celebration of African Penguin Awareness Day on Saturday.
The African penguin is the only penguin species to naturally occur on the African continent and is an endangered seabird.
About 1500 hurt African penguins are treated annually by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) at its centres in Cape Town and Cape St Francis.
Sanccob is a non-profit organisation whose primary objective is to reverse the decline of seabird populations through the rescue, rehabilitation and release of ill, injured, abandoned and oiled seabirds – especially endangered seabirds like the African penguin.
One of the penguins to be released on Saturday had been found in a terrible state in Fish Hoek in June. Penguin AP223, as he was named based on his allocated patient number, was found dehydrated and his black and white feathers were in a poor condition. He weighed only 1.5kg.
Like the other African penguins treated by Sanccob annually, AP223 was admitted by the rehabilitation staff, stabilised, diagnosed and given individualised rehabilitation treatment.
Such treatment involves a specific feeding, swimming, medication and schedule for each seabird patient.
Depending on the nature of its injury or illness a seabird usually spends four to 16 weeks in rehabilitation before being released into the wild. AP223’s rehabilitation took four months.
He and the other penguins received an implanted transponder before the release so that they can be monitored.
When released on Saturday, a healthy AP223 had almost doubled his weight to 2.85kg.
AP223 would once have been a member of South Africa’s most abundant seabird species, but over recent decades the African penguin population has slipped closer to extinction. The present population represents only about 2% of the African penguins in the world 80 years ago.
Currently, almost half of the world’s breeding pairs of African penguin are found in the Western Cape.
AP223 belongs to just one of South Africa’s endangered seabird species – almost all of the 15 species of seabirds that occur in Southern Africa are under severe threat.