When a Red Chinese ship sank near Cape Town with 1600 tonnes of oil on board, the pollution threatened the 53 000 African penguins which live around our shores. The Cape Peninsula is home to a unique species of African Penguins. With the oil polluting their water and food supply these penguins were in danger of dying from starvation or dehydration, unless they died from exposure in the cold Atlantic ocean first. Seabirds have a natural waterproofing against sea water in the form of overlapping feathers coated by a body oil generated within their systems. The oil affects this insulation causing the bird to become waterlogged and hypothermic. Birds that are oiled cannot feed, develop lung, liver and kidney diseases and - if not swiftly and effectively treated - die painful deaths.

They would all need to be rescued, cleaned, fed, rehydrated and medicated and once their natural habitat had been cleaned up, reintroduced back into the wild. At the same time as about 30 000 oiled penguins were being cleaned, treated and fed, another 20 000 clean penguins had to be transported 800 kms away to Port Elizabeth. From there they would swim back to their home islands off the shores of the Cape Peninsula. By the time they returned home, the oil was to have been cleaned up.

Members and affiliates of Frontline Fellowship were among those Capetonians who responded to the crisis. Donning plastic overalls, rubber boots and rubber gloves, we waded in to clean, weigh, feed and medicate these fiesty little animals - who often seemed to fancy our fingers more than the fish! Several of our people specialised in feeding the baby penguins - tubing a glucose solution and a gruel (fish milkshake) into them. Some of us even introduced some of these orphans to their first whole fish ever.

Ultimately this was the largest, and most successful, penguin rescue operation in history. And it was achieved by volunteers. There was a general consensus that it is pleasing to the Lord when we show appreciation and practical concern for His creation.

It is our Christian duty to do all we can to help reverse some of the suffering caused by man's sinfulness and carelessness.

See also: Dedicated Penguin Parents

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