Bayworld to press charges as worries mount over Buddy’s disappearance
In a complete turnaround, Bayworld management yesterday said it would not be withdrawing charges against two men accused of stealing an endangered African penguin.
Bayworld marine living collections curator Dylan Bailey said arrests in the case were expected to take place very soon.
He said the institution took the matter very seriously as African penguins were on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) list and were an endangered species.
His comments came just a day after he had said Bayworld would not be pressing charges as “nothing good could come of it”.
The institution has also refused to release the names of the two young men involved.
Buddy, an African penguin, was stolen early last Wednesday, and has still not been found after he was released into the ocean at Pollok Beach the same day.
The suspects, who approached Bayworld with a lawyer after footage of them snapping selfies and snatching Buddy from the Bayworld complex went viral, claimed they had taken Buddy as they did not agree with animals being kept in captivity.
Bailey said Bayworld had also reported the matter to the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Department spokesman Zolile Nqayi said he was not aware that Buddy had been stolen from Bayworld, but said an incident like that would fall within the department’s mandate.
“The penguin was obviously in captivity for a good reason, so simply releasing it could cause it some harm,” Nqayi said.
“Releasing an animal that has been in captivity for some time would also expose it to a number of natural elements, including predators.”
Nqayi said an investigation would include National Environmental Management Act violations.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said a case of theft was still open and an official investigation was still under way.
Port Elizabeth resident and animal lover Sheena Mcloughlin, who has been coordinating search parties to look for Buddy and has started a Facebook page, said another search would be undertaken by volunteers tomorrow.
She urged residents to help, saying the group would meet at the Bluewater Lifesaving Club car park at 9am.
It was hoped enough people would be available to extend the search to Sundays River.
Mcloughlin said the group would also use the opportunity to clean up beaches and asked volunteers to bring black bags and also binoculars to look for Buddy.
Surfers and kayakers also needed to keep a lookout in the water, she said. Earlier this week, Bailey said although Buddy was a healthy penguin with enough energy to survive for up to three weeks in the wild, he was a captiveraised bird now in a wild and unfamiliar environment.
“He simply does not have the experience necessary to survive in the wild,” he said.