An Exciting Trip to Antarctica Awaits 17-year-old Penguin Ambassador

Posted on 24 November 2023 By Nomvelo Masango

17-year-old Keira King, who is the ambassador of the #NotOnOurWatch (#NOOW) African penguin survival campaign, has been chosen as just one of five South African students to fly to Antarctica this December.

‘I’m just so excited. I think I’m going to be excited up until I go,’ King said.

An image of 17-year-old penguin ambassador, Keira King

Keira King. Image: Supplied.

Ready for Antarctica

’The main idea of the Matrics in Antarctica programme  is to teach us more about sustainability and let us explore and experience life in one of Earth’s most remote places. When I go, I’m definitely taking my #NOOW youth ambassador t-shirt and it’ll be a bit cold, but I’m going to take photos of me wearing it in Antarctica,’ she added.

King flies out to the Land of Penguins on the 6th of December 2023, as part of South African explorer Riaan Manser and Professor Jonathan Jansens’ Antarctic initiative.

The project intends to inspire youngsters who are set to finish high school at the end of next year.  The aim is to get them thinking about how they can offset the effects of climate change and global warming in their own communities.

Emperor Penguins. Image: Sourced

Although African penguins are only found in South Africa and Namibia, Antarctica is home to various species including Gentoo, Emperor, Adélie and Chinstrap penguins.

Committed to conservation 

King’s deep commitment to the ocean and its endangered species is nothing new.  Last year, she completed the Robben Island swim in Cape Town, travelling 7.5 kilometres in freezing waters to support the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation’s Turtle Conservation Centre.

Earlier this year, to raise awareness on the possible extinction of African penguins by 2035, she trained for three months on a prone board which you paddle by hand. She then made her way from Salmon Bay in Ballito to Durban’s uShaka Pier in 7 hours and 20 minutes.

Sophumelela Qoma and Keira King

Sophumelela Qoma and Keira King. Image: Supplied

During the month of October, King and fellow #NOOW youth ambassador, Sophumelela Qoma, were two of the stars of the #NotOnOurWatch campaign’s biggest ever worldwide waddle on International African Penguin Awareness Day.

The campaign involved seven continents, more than 100 organisations and thousands of people.

‘We’re so proud of Keira and, with all that she’s already achieved, it was clear that she would be an excellent choice for the Antarctic adventure,’ said Dr Judy Mann, President of the International Zoo Educators Association, and a founder of the #NOOW campaign.

Since the worldwide waddle, Qoma has also had a very busy schedule. She launched a foundation to nurture a nature crisis generation and was a presenter at the vaunted Sharks and Ray Symposium in Durban.

She also met up with the Mayor of Mossel Bay to discuss all things conservation, and has been promoting the Plastic Changemakers project.

‘With young women like Sophu and Keira, there’s hope that climate change could be arrested and that African penguins could be saved,’ Dr Mann said.

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