At the end of August, the last of 92 penguins who had been covered in oil was finally clean, thanks to the people who worked day and night to give them baths.
But they still have a long road to recovery ahead of them.
"Unfortunately, the journey isn't over for these poor seabirds," the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a seabird rescue center in Cape St. Francis, South Africa, wrote. "Many of them are still suffering the effects of dehydration, malnourishment and need to regain the natural waterproofing of their feathers before they can be released back into the wild. Our team will now begin the next stage of oil spill response management - rehabilitating the oil-free seabirds."
The 92 oiled penguins started arriving on August 16, after an oil spill off the coast of South Africa. The authorities are still investigating the source of the spill.
"Most of the penguins are heavily oiled, with some having as much as 90% of their bodies covered in oil," SANCCOB wrote in a press release about its new patients.
Oil breaks down the natural waterproofing of a penguin's feathers, the rescue organization said, and makes it impossible for the penguin to regulate his body temperature, which can lead to hypothermia.
"Oil also causes skin and eye irritation," SANCCOB wrote. "A natural reaction for penguins is to preen their feathers to remove the oil which can result in ingestion of oil, ultimately leading to ulcers, a reduced immune system and organ failure."
While the birds admitted to the center were dehydrated, stressed and weak at first, they're already looking a lot better after their baths - which can take two hours each.
"We are grateful for all the support from our partners and the local community," Juanita Raath, SANCCOB's rehabilitation coordinator, said in the release. "The team of staff and volunteers are working round the clock to ensure that the birds get the best care possible."