Are you ready to get your waddle on for a good cause? Join us for the annual Waddle for a Week, raising awareness for a good cause – the plight of the endangered African penguin. The event, coordinated by the Aquarium’s very own Hayley McLellan, is about taking conservation awareness to the streets.
Penguin Promises is a campaign that was “hatched” in 2011, when the Animal Keepers Association of Africa (AKAA) decided to choose an endangered species and create an awareness drive in support of it.
The African penguin was chosen, as its numbers are currently as low as 50 000 birds in the wild compared to a very healthy population about 100 years ago of approximately 1.5-million. Scientists claim that this species could go extinct within the next 15-25 years should environmental conditions not improve for them. This bird is endemic to Southern Africa and considered an iconic animal, as well as an indicator species that tells us about the state of our oceans.
Most important to recognise is that the Penguin Promises campaign will always focus on awareness, versus fundraising, therefore the slogan “We don’t want your money honey, we want your love” says it all. It is generally felt that when the public donate money to a cause they very often feel momentarily better about themselves and then walk away, perhaps not really knowing or caring what happens thereafter.
Penguin Promises clearly proposes that each and every person who currently has the privilege of living on our beautiful planet looks closely at the way in which they are in relationship with nature, and makes a conscious choice to change an aspect or aspects of their behaviour that will have a positive effect on the environment.
A few examples of penguin promises are: recycling/reusing/reducing, saving water and electricity, planting an organic vegetable garden, using eco-friendly cleaners, and refusing drinking straws and the single-use plastic shopping bag.
It has been shown that many people making a small lifestyle change can make an enormous difference! But the time for talking is over, and it is only action that will make the difference now.
Eager animal keepers from various animal facilities around the country, as well as general members of the public, take part in the annual Waddle, which spans six days. A distance of 120km is covered on the roads between Gansbaai – where the Dyer island African penguin breeding colony exists; through Betty’s Bay, home of the Stony Point penguin colony; and ending in Simon’s Town, at the Boulders beach penguin colony. The Waddlers are well supported by a team driver/s, ensuring that all logistics as well as effective media coverage are attended to.
Waddles 2012 & 2013 received much-needed and appreciated sponsorship from both Cape Nature and Chrysler Jeep Dodge. Accommodation at each night’s stop was kindly sponsored, and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust has been most supportive of the campaign since its inception. Old Mutual Finance have generously stepped forward as headline sponsors to fund Waddle 2014. Penguin Promises also benefits from the endorsement of the African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZAB), and the campaign was awarded the 2013 PAAZAB Conservation Award.
The response we received from media last year was most impressive. Word of this endeavour clearly travelled far and wide, and each day we experienced a handful of local newspapers, radio stations and television groups making a fine effort to cover our journey and the important reasons for it.
The public was equally supportive, and people showed their excitement in each centre through which we waddled, holding our impossible-to-miss, bright yellow “hoot for penguins” signs aloft in order to attract maximum attention. We counted over 3 000 hoots for the six-days walk in 2013! The importance of achieving as many hoots as possible is that this reflects “action learning”, meaning that the motorist that hoots is bound to remember our campaign more so than the motorist who simply drives on by without participating.
Many learners were brought out from the classrooms by their teachers in order to waddle alongside us for short stretches. It was so inspiring to see the youth embrace our mission and demonstrate this by either dressing in black and white, creating art depicting their affection for the African penguin, or raising small but meaningful collections of money, which of course we acknowledged and passed on to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) for important rehabilitation work.
We also impressed upon each learner the need for them to consider and commit to a personal penguin promise of their own.
The Waddle has become a successful annual event, and we look forward to increased interest and awareness each year. This entire conservation project would not be possible without the generosity and willingness of, and actions taken by, all who are involved. The African penguin salutes all who have and are yet to join us in this vital campaign.
For more information, or if you would like to participate, visit www.penguinpromises.com.
In the meantime, come to the Two Oceans Aquarium and visit Neptune, Alan, Chuck, Zuki and the rest of our African penguin family at the River Meander Exhibit.
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