Conservation

TRACKING DASSEN ISLAND'S PENGUINS

Posted on the 9th June 2013

The MPA’s, Islands and Estuaries annual forum was held in the quaint town of Gansbaai on 7 & 8 March 2013. The location of the forum was ideal in that one of CapeNature’s islands, Dyer Island, is just off shore. The location of the forum was the Great White House which is home to the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, a close partner to the Programme. There were a total of 39 attendees on day one who were treated to 10 presentations on subjects ranging from the proposed marine orientated course at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) to the role of marine protected areas in the lives of cetaceans. The presentations were of the highest calibre and were well received by all.

Johan Visagie – Tracking Dassen Island’s Penguins

The tracking of penguins on islands is a collaborative effort between CapeNature, DEA: O&C and BirdLife SA. The programme started in 2008 as part of the Closed Area Monitoring Programme. The tracking involves fitting data loggers called platform terminal transmitters (PTTs) to individual penguins. The PTTs each weigh only 40 g and are about the size of a matchbox. The battery is expected to last for about 120 days. The satellite transmitters are attached to the backs of the penguins using a special kind of tape and superglue! The glue will not cause a problem for the feathers because all the penguins will soon moult and will grow newfeathers. The research conducted falls in the period of experimental island closures where fishing is prohibited. Dassen Island was closed to fisheries in 2008 and 2009 and open from 2010 – 2012. The tracking data is highly variable but what can be seen is that the maximum distance travelled during the closed periods were shorter (24.9 km in 2008 and 7.59 km in 2009) than the open periods (22.7 - 25.7 km in 2010, 41.7 km in 2011 and 26.5 km in 2012) and on average the trip durations were shorter in the closed periods (53.1 hours) than in open periods (60.7 hours). BirdLife also monitor the movements of adult penguins post breeding season. They deployed and received 10 PTT devices from birds on Dassen Island and St Croix Island and there is information on 9 successful tracks from Dassen. One penguin had a remarkable track dataset with data being collected over 88 days with the penguin covering a total distance of 1845.38 km and covering an average of 21.71 km per day and this very nicely shows the variability and unpredictability of sea bird movements.

 


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