What do you do when you get thrown into the deep end… along with 40,000 penguins and 12,500 volunteers?
I met Dyan in 2015, when I attended a session with one of my mentors at the time. She was also there in attendance, and that’s when I learnt about her incredible story of how she was part of a massive rescue operation to save 41,000 penguins from death.
I reached out to Dyan and asked her if she would like to share her story on the show.
Just after the iron ore carrier MV Treasure foundered off the coast of Cape Town in South Africa, it was learnt that 1,300 tons of oil spilled into the ocean – contaminating the habitat of 75,000 penguins. If nothing was done – 41 percent of the entire world population of African penguins would have been wiped out just like that.
Thankfully, individuals and organizations rallied into action to save these birds. Over a period of three months, more than 12,500 experienced and inexperienced volunteers from all across the globe came to South Africa to offer their help. They de-oiled, nursed the birds back to health, and released nearly all of the 40,000 birds affected by the spill, back into the ocean.
Throughout this period, there were many people involved, and many stories to share – and all of these were captured in Dyan’s best selling book – The Great Penguin Rescue. And it certainly was. As of today, it is still recorded as the largest animal rescue effort ever.
Dyan deNapoli is known as the Penguin Lady, and her mission is to raise awareness and funding to protect penguins.
She runs her own education company, and frequently writes on penguin topics and serves as a penguin expert on expeditions and cruises to the Galapagos Island and Antartica. She estimates she has taught more than 250,000 people in the US and abroad about penguins.
In June of 2000, Dyan was serving as the Senior Penguin Aquarist at the New England Aquarium when disaster struck off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. She has written a best-selling book titled The Great Penguin Rescue.
- When you come together and work as one with a common goal in mind, you can achieve great things.
If you put your intention out there, and if you put your focus on it, that the universe just goes “OK, you’re serious about this, I’m gonna make it happen!”
Even when you don’t have a plan, and you’re maxed out on your resources, go with any idea that may come to you – even the crazy ones – because although you could fail, you may also be able to make it work. But if you don’t do anything, then you’ll definitely fail.
When you volunteer on something like this, you have an instant deep bonding with the people that you work with. A connection with them when you have the same mission and passion, and everyone is giving 200% of their time.
SANCCOB (the penguin rescue centre in South Africa – they oversaw the rescue, and its where Dyan donates to every year).
International Bird Rescue’s (IBR) account of the rescue.
Dyan’s TED talk about the penguin rescue.
Dyan’s TED-Ed video about penguin conservation.
Dyan’s book, The Great Penguin Rescue.
Social Media pages
- Website (a new website is under construction): http://
- Book and TEDx talks