Happy Penguin Awareness Day! At TEDxBoston, how to save penguins after an oil spill

After an oil tanker sunk off the coast of South Africa, thousands of African penguins were covered in oil. Penguin expert Dylan deNapoli was one of the thousands who helped rescue these penguins. (Photo: Dylan deNapoli)

After an oil tanker sunk off the coast of South Africa, volunteers had to clean  thousands of African penguins. (Photo: Dyan deNapoli)

Dyan deNapoli was working in the penguin office of the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts when she received a call: There had been an oil spill; thousands of penguins were in trouble. An oil tanker had sunk off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa during the height of African penguin breeding season and 20,000 penguins were covered in oil. Soon, deNapoli was on a flight to Cape Town to help organize one of the largest animal rescues ever. At TEDxBoston, she explains how that happened.

After an oil tanker sunk off the coast of South Africa, thousands of African penguins were covered in oil. Penguin expert Dylan deNapoli was one of the thousands who helped rescue these penguins. (Photo: John Hrusa/IFAW)

African penguins after the Treasure oil spill (Photo: John Hrusa/IFAW)

After an oil tanker sunk off the coast of South Africa, volunteers had to clean thousands of oiled penguins. (Photo: Dylan deNapoli)

More African penguins after the Treasure oil spill. (Photo: Dyan deNapoli)

“The scene inside [the penguin rescue] was devastating and surreal,” she says. “Penguins are very vocal birds and really, really noisy. And so I expected to walk into this building and be met with this cacophony of honking and braying and squawking, but instead, when we stepped through those doors and into the building, it was eerily silent. So it was very clear these were stressed, sick, traumatized birds.”

Volunteers help penguins in a railway warehouse full of oiled pemguins (Photo: L.G. Underhill / Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town)

Volunteers help penguins in a railway warehouse full of oiled penguins (Photo: L.G. Underhill / Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town)

deNapoli was soon in the trenches — helping thousands of volunteers degrease these oiled birds. The experience taught her a lot — about the power of volunteers, the resilience of birds and the best way to degrease an African penguin. Watch her whole talk to learn more:

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