The Great Penguin Rescue: 40,000 Penguins, a Devastating Oil Spill, and the Inspiring Story of the World's Largest Animal Rescue

Dyan deNapoli


On June 23, 2000, a ship foundered off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. The area in which it sank, located between two of the main breeding colonies of the African penguin, threatened approximately 75,000 penguins, more than 40 percent of the world’s population. Within hours after the ship sank, heavily oiled penguins began to stream ashore onto nearby islands and beaches. As parents were unable to return to them, chicks left in the breeding colonies would slowly starve to death. The rapidly overwhelmed penguin rehabilitation center in Cape Town put out an international call for help to the zoo and aquarium network, and deNapoli, a penguin keeper at the New England Aquarium, was among the first group to arrive. Her firsthand account of the rescue of the oiled penguins (all of whom fought against their rescuers), repeated washing of each bird, force-feeding, and guano cleanup plunges the reader into the maelstrom of animal rescue and rehabilitation on such a large scale.

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