Environmental Disasters, the Power of Volunteers and…Penguins

The power of dedicated volunteers helped save tens of thousands of african penguins after an oil spill.Penguins are the best. Aren’t they so cute? As with other sea-based creatures, penguins are in extreme danger when disasters like oil spills occur.

But as this TED talk by “Penguin Lady”  Dyan deNapoli shows, with the dedication and passion of volunteers, we can save penguins from the horrors of oil spills.



Watch the video below to hear the inspiring story:


After an oil spill in 2000 polluted the South African habitat of more than half the world’s population of African penguins, Dyan and other penguin experts were called in to help organize the rescue efforts.

They had thousands of willing yet clueless volunteers, so the expertise of the penguin specialists was key for coordinating the operation. In total, more than 12,500 volunteers came through to help the tens of thousands of penguins that had been put in peril, and what transpired was the world’s largest volunteer animal rescue.

Dyan talks about how massive the task seemed – how the scientists and other professionals didn’t know if saving even part of the population would be possible at all. But the dedication and energy of the volunteers, she relates, gave everyone hope.

Using innovative methods that have been made standard in animal rescue efforts since, Dyan and the others were able to save more than 40,000 African penguins, who have gone on to live as long and happily as penguins who were never caught in an oil spill.

“When we come together and work as one, we can achieve extraordinary things,” Dyan says. “Truly, to be a part of something so much larger than yourself is the most rewarding experience you can possibly have.”

As volunteer managers, we experience this power every day, and harness it to help our community, whether we’re talking about penguins, plants or people.