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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What is it like to be a volunteer at SANCCOB in Table View?

We made this video to show people what it is like to volunteer at SANCCOB for a day. Many have complained that they want to help the baby flamingo's but then when they got there, they were disappointed as they were not allowed to interact with the birds. We however had a great day learning about the sanctuary and while we cant volunteer on a permanent basis (too busy preparing to build an animal shelter) , we really enjoyed this experience.

Their current needs in the #laundry room is more laundry baskets and fold-up towel racks. So if you have any to spare, please do take it to them. Also, pop in any time, they always have too much laundry that needs drying, so if you can grab a basket of wet towels and dry at your home, they will greatly appreciate that. There is a possibility that they might be getting in more baby birds, so this need is constant. Thank you :)

When we heard via Birdlife South Africa about the plight of a breeding colony of the endangered Lesser Flamingo’s, we jumped into action to see how we could help towards saving the birds. 

Their location, the Kamfers Dam near Kimberley is one of only four sites in the world where 80 000 of these birds breed.  The dam has practically run dry, and the adult birds have abandoned their nests.

Leaving conservationists to desperately find surrogate environments for the 1800 hatch-lings and eggs to survive. 

Baby birds were flown all over south Africa and emergency measures were put in place to accommodate and try and help these babies make it to adulthood.

One of the many places the birdies ended up was right on our doorstep, and a mere 15-minute cycle to get to SANCCOB in Cape Town.  We registered our names for helping as volunteers, and the day finally arrived two weeks later.  Capetonians stepped up and got busy.  We shared social media notices, donated money, goods and our time.

Sunday morning, breathless and an easy quick cycle got us to the sanctuary.  My husband and I were 3 minutes late and missed the volunteer briefing session. Note to self, don’t be late next time!

But Natalie came to our rescue and showed us around before we were commissioned to our station.  The laundry room. 

We quickly got into our sexy green overalls and headed to the laundry.  

3 Washing machines, 2 tumble dryers and a mountain of wet, dry, dirty and clean laundry awaited us. 

There was no space to hang the wet towels, and no space to place the newly washed laundry.  This did not matter to the caregivers, as they were just piling in more dirty towels, so we had to think fast. 

We quickly got onto our WhatsApp groups and social media and asked for our friends to come and collect laundry baskets to hang and dry at their homes.  This worked very well.   I think we saved ourselves from at least 20 baskets of laundry to hang.  As the clean washing came off the press, it was taken to the front for collection.

A quick tea break and a chat to the lady in charge, gave us the opportunity to pop in and see the little baby flamingos for the first time. 

We were not allowed to get close to them as they were all very ill and in special care.  They all arrived with salmonella poisoning, and it is now a race against time to get them healthy and strong again.  They have lost a few, but this was to be expected.

There are people assigned to sifting the food and cleaning syringes.  First, they must cut the food into small pieces then they must squash them through the sieves.  Then they mix the food with baby food and start filling the syringes for the next feed. 

While they are sifting food and filling syringes, there are also ladies cleaning syringes.  This involves about half an hour of soaking in special chemicals, cleaning, scrubbing and drying too.

The birdies also need a bath often, and they are then sent to this special room where they get washed and dried. 

Soon the oldest ones will be moved to a newly developed walking enclosure to start to strengthen the chick’s legs for the final rehabilitation back into the wild.

And this is just the part that we know of.  I take my hat off to the people who are in charge here.  They are doing a fantastic job, and they have a well-oiled machine.

Pic Source : SANCCOB
We also did not miss up on the opportunity to go visit the other residents of SANCCOB.  Of course, there are the adorable penguins, some are here for rehabilitation and others are here for life. 

We met this beautiful pelican that was hand reared but handed to SANCCOB.  They released this beauty to the local dam, but returned twice with injuries.  He is now here for rehab, but if he comes back again, they might consider keeping him.

Some of the rarities under care that we visited were the northern rock hoppers, swift turns, bank cormorants, cape cormorants and white breasted cormorants.  The cape gannets and chicks were off limits to the public.

All of this is to thank an amazing woman, Mrs Althea Louise Berman Westphal who in the late 1960’s opened up a sanctuary in her back garden to help treat a colony of penguins from an oil spill.  From there her research began, and with good support local and international authorities, eventually SANCCOB was founded.

If you would like to volunteer, support or donate to this Seabird Centre, you can find them online at  

Thank you SANCCOB for a great volunteering experience.