Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Artificially incubate and hand-rear penguins in captivity

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

Two replicated and controlled studies from South Africa found that hand-reared and released African penguins Spheniscus demersus had similar survival and breeding success as birds which were not orphaned and hand-reared.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated study in the Western Cape, South Africa, in 1994-9 (Whittington 2003), found that orphaned African penguins Spheniscus demersus that were hand-reared and released had similar survival and breeding probabilities as naturally-fledged chicks (11% of 437 hand-reared chicks seen at colonies, 1% breeding, 2% found dead vs. 9%, 1% and 1% of 399 naturally-fledged chicks). Of 507 chicks that were hand-reared, 437 (86%) were successfully released into the wild. Survival of rehabilitated adults is discussed in ‘Clean birds following oil spills’ in ‘Threat: Pollution’.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A controlled and replicated study on Robben and Dassen Islands, South Africa (Barham et al. 2008), found that the survival to breeding age and breeding success of African penguins Spheniscus demersus during 2001-6 were similar for birds that were orphaned in the Treasure oil spill in 2000 and hand-reared, compared to birds that were not orphaned and hand-reared (1.6 chicks fledged/pair for 24 pairs with at least one hand-reared bird vs. 1.1 chicks fledged/pair for 227 pairs without hand-reared birds). The authors note that the sample size of hand-reared pairs was too small for statistical tests to determine significance.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

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Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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