The African penguin Spheniscus demersus has an 'Endangered' conservation status and a decreasing population. Following abandonment, 841 African penguin chicks in 2006 and 481 in 2007 were admitted to SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) for hand-rearing from colonies in the Western Cape, South Africa, after large numbers of breeding adults commenced moult with chicks still in the nest. Of those admitted, 91% and 73% respectively were released into the wild. There were veterinary concerns about avian malaria, airsacculitis and pneumonia, feather-loss and pododermatitis (bumblefoot). Post-release juvenile (0.32, s.e. = 0.08) and adult (0.76, s.e. = 0.10) survival rates were similar to African penguin chicks reared after oil spills and to recent survival rates recorded for naturally-reared birds. By December 2012, 12 birds had bred, six at their colony of origin, and the apparent recruitment rate was 0.11 (s.e. = 0.03). Hand-rearing of abandoned penguin chicks is recommended as a conservation tool to limit mortality and to bolster the population at specific colonies. The feasibility of conservation translocations for the creation of new colonies for this species using hand-reared chicks warrants investigation. Any such programme would be predicated on adequate disease surveillance programmes established to minimise the risk of disease introduction to wild birds.