Sav­ing the African pen­guin

The Star Early Edition - - JUNE IS ENVIRONMENT MONTH -

By Mil­li­cent Makoala IN 2010, the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture (IUCN) re-as­sessed the con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of the African pen­guin, which re­sulted in the up list­ing from ‘vul­ner­a­ble’ to ‘en­dan­gered’.

Be­cause of this, CapeNa­ture and the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs hosted a meet­ing of a group of ex­perts from var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions and man­age­ment au­thor­i­ties at Ar­niston in the Western Cape to de­velop the first na­tional Bio­di­ver­sity Man­age­ment Plan (BMP) for the African pen­guin.

This BMP aimed to unify ex­ist­ing ef­forts by var­i­ous au­thor­i­ties to halt the de­cline of this species.

African pen­guins breed in South Africa and Namibia and are en­demic to south­ern Africa.

The South African breed­ing colonies are spread from Mal­gas Is­land on the west coast to Bird Is­land near Port El­iz­a­beth in the east, while their non-breed­ing range ex­tends from Namibia to KwaZulu-Natal.

Some va­grant birds have been recorded along the West African coast near Gabon and in the east to­wards the Lim­popo River mouth.

The African pen­guin pop­u­la­tion at present num­bers about 19 000 breed­ing pairs, (down from a mil­lion in the 1920s), of which 80% are in South Africa.

Var­i­ous mod­ern day chal­lenges af­fect African pen­guin pop­u­la­tions: pol­lu­tion (in­clud­ing oil spills); habi­tat degra­da­tion; food short­age; cli­mate change; hu­man dis­tur­bance; dis­eases; high lev­els of pre­da­tion of eggs, chicks and/or adults mainly by gulls and seals.

Other preda­tors, par­tic­u­larly at land-based colonies such as Stony Point and Boul­ders Beach, in­clude mon­goose, feral and do­mes­tic cats, cara­cal, do­mes­tic dogs and ro­dents.

The African pen­guin, now en­dan­gered.

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