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Smile and wave, boys!

Excellent news: East London's little miracle rockhopper penguin, El, is thriving!

El was found washed up along the East London coast as a tiny, juvenile bird in July last year. Severely malnourished, she was later diagnosed with a potentially crippling bone infection in both her feet.

Thanks to the quick action of those who found her, and the East London Aquarium staff who treated her, El's condition soon stabilised, however.

She was later transferred to SANCCOB's Intensive Care Unit, where she spent over a month receiving specialised treatment.

A year later, El has been successfully settled in her forever home at the Two Oceans Aquarium - and she's become quite the belle of the beach.

"EL is the youngest penguin (in the rockhopper colony), but has the biggest personality," says Senior Animal Keeper Shanet Rutgers.

"She is very sure of herself and will take on any penguin bigger than her. She often thinks she owns the rockies' beach and wants to be on top of everything."

Northern rockhopper penguins are native to several sub-Antarctic islands thousands of kilometres from the South African mainland, the Two Oceans Aquarium explains.

A decision was taken to not release little El back into the ocean as it was unlikely that a penguin this young, still with part of its chick "fluff" and not fully coated in waterproof feathers, could have survived the swim.

"What is more likely, is that this penguin was poached by fishermen nearer to its colony and kept on the boat as entertainment, then thrown overboard when the boat neared South African waters to avoid being fined by the authorities.

"While it is difficult to prove that poaching and unethical fishermen are responsible for the stranding of these rockhopper penguins, we do know for a fact that some of them have been in the hands of poachers. For example, Teddy the golden oldie of our rockhoppers was rescued with his feet tightly bound together by wire. Could EL's foot injuries also be the result of being bound up? We'll never know."

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