The African Penguin Spheniscus demersus (Brilpikkewyn) is one of seven seabird species that is a breeding endemic of the Benguela current region off the south-west coast of southern Africa
They have huge public appeal and the accessible breeding colonies at Boulders Beach and Stony Point contribute significantly to the tourism value of the Western Cape province
African Penguin numbers in Namibia have declined by more than 90% over the last five decades from about 50 000 pairs in the 1950s to about 5 000 pairs in the 2009
In the 19th century there were about a million African Penguin pairs breeding at Dassen Island alone – this decreased to about 145 000 in 1956 and today there are less than 30 000 pairs worldwide. Penguin numbers along the West Coast of South Africa fell from nearly 40 000 pairs in 2004 to barely 12 000 pairs in 2009, due to lack of food.
This dramatic decline in numbers has led to considerations to upgrade the bird's conservation status from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List for birds
Besides natural predation by gulls, sharks and seals, factors that caused the decline in numbers include the scraping of guano, egg collecting, oil pollution and a shortage of food
Despite numerous actions aimed at improving breeding success, chick and adult survival, numbers of pairs at most major colonies continue to decline.
A few organizations dedicated to African Penguins that will benefit from BirdLife Overberg's fund raising efforts:
Since 1968 SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) has saved more than 86 000 seabirds, amongst these is our flagship species, the African penguin, which has lost more than 90% of its wild population over the last 100 years. According to the PercyFitzpatrick Institute the wild population is 19% higher because of SANCCOB’s efforts.
- SANCCOB is the SA government recognized rehabilitation partner to respond to oil-related disaster at sea involving seabirds.
- SANCCOB has an active Education Department with curriculum-based in-house and outreach programmes In 2009 we shared our marine message with more than 10 000 school learners, mainly from the poorer communities around Cape Town and with children with terminal diseases and disabilities.
- Training Institute, with a 1-year THETA-accredited national diploma, trains parastatal and other field workers in captive animal caring and management.
- Research Department presents and write papers. Contributes original research towards seabird scientific studies.
Dyer Island Conservation Trust:
The Dyer Island Conservation Trust is committed to the conservation of the African penguin and in 2006 initiated the nest project to improve their fledgling success. The artificial nests are modelled on the natural nests and contribute immensely to minimizing the penguins’ exposure to both predators and the elements while also facilitating research and monitoring that would not be possible on surface nesting birds. With the support of CapeNature over 800 nests have been placed on Dyer Island and still more at other colonies. Each nest is numbered and monitored regularly to determine occupancy and breeding success of the penguins within them. The Trust promotes awareness of the plight of the African penguin both locally and internationally and generates support for research and conservation projects related to the African Penguin.
BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme:
BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme, that manages the Save the Albatross Campaign and the Albatross Task Force, is setting up marine Important Bird Areas to lobby for seabird protection at sea, and works internationally to protect seabirds. In 2009 BirdLife South Africa appointed a Species Champion for the penguin, and through them is supporting advocacy and research work to turn the decrease around.