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CNN Today

Penguins Saved From Oil Spill Returning Home

Aired July 21, 2000 - 2:51 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A unique rescue operation is reporting success on the islands off the western coast of South Africa. Thousands of penguins saved from an oil slick are returning home.

Penny Marshall brings us the sea birds' happy homecoming.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PENNY MARSHALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sweet homecoming for the first of Robben Island's African penguin who today celebrated freedom on their oil-free beach. They're survivors of the largest-ever evacuation of coastal birds.

A thousand previously oiled fledglings, now cleaned and marked in pink to prove it, were released today. This operation has cost more than half a million pounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're doing extremely well at the moment. We've lost far less than 5 percent so far. And I think this is going to be hugely successful due to a lot of people, and I hope to be able to come back here before Christmas and see 20,000 penguins here again.

MARSHALL: 55,000 penguins were threatened by last month's oil spill here, 40 percent of the world's population. Whilst the oil birds were taken away to be clean, the oil-free penguins were relocated to clean waters 500 miles up the coast. It was hoped from there they would swim home to their Cape colonies.

(on camera): Scientists are certain that most of those have either made it back here or are on the way. Three of them were electronically tagged, and two of those, dubbed Peter and Percy, have definitely made it onto the island, swimming on average 25 miles a day to get here.

(voice-over): And more birds are steadily arriving. Exhausted after their epic swim, they're staying close to shore. It seems for the African penguin there's no place like home.

Penny Marshall, ITN, Robben Island.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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