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Pensioner vs penguins at Stony Point

Cape Town - Look at them, just look at them! said Barbara Wallers as a group of penguins waddled across her back garden. After another sleepless night thanks to the heehawing African penguins, which have taken to marauding her property, the 79-year-old Stony Point resident is fed up.

“They s**t all over the place,” she said gesturing towards her carpet. “The other day I had one in here, running around, and it s**t all over my bedroom. It just walked through my door and made a mess of my house.”

The penguin colony at Stony Point is one of four mainland colonies in South Africa and declared a municipal nature reserve in July 2002 . Picture: Henk Kruger. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

Stony Point at Betty’s Bay is the oldest land-based colony of African penguins in SA and is home to about 5 000 of the endangered birds.

But Wallers, who has been living in Stony Point since 1947, is not a big fan of her feathered “visitors” that first arrived in 1982.

Using gaps in an incomplete fence separating the properties on Stony Point from the breeding colony, intrepid penguins have been escaping into gardens and setting up nests in their hundreds.

“Oh, the smell - it stinks!” she said. “You must see the place at night, there are 600 of them running around.”

Wallers has taken to spraying the penguins with fertiliser if they get too cosy, and has begun walling off her bushes using an assortment of rocks to prevent them digging hideouts.

“I was here first,” she says. “There wasn’t a single one of these things until 1982. I wish I’d never discovered them.”

But while Wallers may be hoping the penguins stumble on to some pesticide, neighbours insist she is harmless and is just frustrated.

“She’s one of the kindest people I know,” said Jadri Turner, who owns a holiday house in Stony Point and has also had enough of the penguin squatters.

“She lives there, it’s a lot of noise all night long – how would you feel if you couldn’t sleep?”

Johannes Klopper, a retired medical doctor from Durbanville, said he was keeping away from his holiday home because of the penguins. He said he was more concerned about the health hazard than the noise.

“They leave their faeces all over the place. You have kids crawling and running around here and it isn’t healthy,” said Klopper.

He added that the area could not sustain the population growth rate.

“These penguins have no natural predators here. This year there’s 5 000, next year there’s 10 000. It’s all set up for a big epidemic.”

The Overstrand municipality has promised the fence would be completed by January.

Deon Geldenhuys, conservation manager in the area, said the fence would help keep penguins within the colony boundaries, but he didn’t know how long this would work.

Cadet News Agency

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