Monday, November 14, 2011

First Day at the New Job

Today was the day that I’ve been waiting for since March—I finally had a chance to put my foot down on SANCCOB soil! It was a great feeling to finally have that piece of the Cape Town puzzle fall into place and to see the rescue and rehabilitation center where I’ll be spending the next four weeks.

As with any new job, the first order of business are introductions to the staff and other volunteers that are working to help better the lives of the African penguins and other seabirds that come through SANCCOB’s doors. There were lots of cheerful faces at the morning meeting, volunteers from all over the world ready to get to work. The SANCCOB staff was great at making sure everyone was clear on their assignments and then it was off to the races…or to the penguin pens!

Penguin holding pens

After a quick tour of the buildings and different penguin housing areas, Paul and I headed to our assignments. Paul went to off to help a volunteer named Sophie to do some larger tasks (laundry, defrost fish, do dishes, make fish milkshakes for the new chicks). I was assigned to be the volunteer buddy of Jen and together we were going to tackle the mysterious task of “mats and crates”.

Laundry...lots of laundry

Okay, a little biology refresher. Penguins are birds. If you have had a bird poop on your car you are well aware it’s not pretty. Well, penguins poop... a lot. Over everything—including the mats that they stand on and the large, oversized milk crates that some of the weaker birds rest in. So poop gets everywhere. And at SANCCOB (and the Aquarium) poop needs to be cleaned up. Thankfully, Jen and I were on cleaning duty today!

Oilskin pants to keep dry

We took all the dirty mats and crates and then started the soak, pre-rinse, wash, rinse, wash and rinse cycle, using a special veterinarian disinfectant and an industrial strength power washer. It was a lot of work but rewarding to see the pile of clean mats at the end of the day. Because of our hard work, a penguin would have a nice clean spot to stand or lie down. Until they poop on it again.

Tools of the trade

So all in all, a great day filled with seeing SANCCOB for the first time, meeting new people and cleaning penguin poop. It’s nice to begin to see first hand the great work that SANCCOB does and also it’s nice to be a part of it. I know there is a lot more to come and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow may bring!


Learn more about the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB and their Chick Bolstering Project.

Follow the adventures of Jo's co-worker, Paul! Aquarium penguin biologist Paul Leonard is also in South Africa to study and care for African penguins in the Southern Hemisphere! Read about his experience on the Penguin Blog.


  1. What a fun experience! So jealous! I was thinking of all my NEAq peeps today (and all the poop we've cleaned over the years) when a new neighbor apologized for her dog peeing and pooping on our lawn. I told her "if you had ANY idea how much poo I've cleaned over the years - from 10 foot crocodiles to piping plovers - you would not apologize at all! I can take it!" good thing you and I are not fecal-phobic huh :) keep the blogs coming, I love to hear of my former co-worker's adventures! And enjoy all that bird poo! -Kate

  2. Wow, and I thought my laundry pile was bad!

  3. tsk, tsk -- the "p" word!
    Great job, Jo -- glad you're getting into the thick of it already, so to speak!