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Ground-breaking efforts to create new penguin colonies begin

Posted on the 9th January 2019

The idea of creating new African Penguin colonies has been discussed and planned for a number of years, but now is closer to becoming a reality with work starting on the ground at the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

African Penguin numbers have decreased dramatically over the last 60 years, with little sign of slowing despite the best efforts of many stakeholders. The populations on the west coast of South Africa have suffered the most, with an over 60% decrease in the last 20 years. This has been largely driven by decreases in the availability of the penguin’s preferred prey: sardine and anchovy. Since the mid-1990s stocks of the fish, once abundant on the west coast, have shifted south and eastwards, away from the former penguin breeding strongholds.

The penguins cannot move with the fish because of a lack of safe breeding sites, and so they struggle to find enough food to feed their chicks and survive. “By helping the penguins to colonise new areas that were previously unavailable to them, we hope to increase their population and decrease the risk to any one colony”, says Christina Hagen, Pamela Isdell Fellow of Penguin Conservation at BirdLife South Africa, who is leading the project. "At first, we will be attempting to establish the colony using “passive” attraction techniques. This involves convincing penguins that that there are already birds breeding at the site, using call playback and decoys (model penguins) to help simulate an existing colony.” If the passive attraction techniques are unsuccessful after a year, the process of physically translocating penguins will begin.

After a lengthy engagement with penguin and predator experts, including conducting a risk assessment, CapeNature approved BirdLife South Africa’s proposal and management plan for the colony in August 2018. Since then, preparations have started at the site to protect it from predators by putting up a fence, the call playback speakers and penguin decoys.

More information on the new colony project can be found by contacting Christina Hagen, christina.hagen@birdlife.org.za. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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