Penguins whose feathers were left coated in crude oil after a tanker spill off the coast of South Africa have been rescued in an operation featuring in a new TV series.
The six-episode programme follows wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan's stint as a volunteer at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) centre near her home in Cape Town.
The presenter is hoping The Great Penguin Rescue, which begins at 8pm on November 27 on the Eden Channel, will help raise awareness of the plight of the African penguins, which experts fear could be extinct within 15 years.
The presenter of Autumnwatch and The Really Wild Show said her experiences at the conservation centre had left her full of admiration for the way African penguins are surviving.
As well as contending with pollution the birds' future is threatened by climate change and competition for dwindling fish stocks from trawlers and increasing numbers of seals.
Michaela said she hoped her latest series would do for the loveable penguins what previous programmes had done for orang-utans and elephants.
But she warned: "Solving the problem of lack of fish won't be sorted overnight."
The first episode of the series will see Michaela sailing off the Cape of Good Hope and out to Dyer Island.
Viewers will discover how crude oil destroys birds' natural waterproofing, leaving their lives at risk if they aren't quickly found and cleaned up after a spill.
The ordeal often leaves the loveable African penguins too traumatised to eat, meaning they have to be fed by hand despite the experience also leaving them more wary of humans.
But Michaela says one factor that could work in the birds' favour is the growing amount of new research being carried out on them.
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