Saving the African penguin
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.