Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Pioneer African Penguins set to establish colony within De Hoop Nature Reserve

By Dominic Naidoo Time of article published Jun 16, 2021

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The De Hoop Nature Reserve will serve as the new permanent home for 30 fledgling African Penguins were released on the reserve’s rocky shores on Tuesday morning.

The endeavour was undertaken by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in partnership with CapeNature and BirdLife South Africa hopes to re-establish a penguin colony and help save the endangered African Penguin.

The African Penguin is endemic to the shores of Southern Africa, from Hollams Bird Island, near the central Namibian coast, to Algoa Bay off the coast of the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

They are normally be found in large, noisy colonies. The African Penguin is also commonly referred to as the Jackass Penguin because of its loud, braying call that sounds similar to that of a donkey.

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The South African National Biodiversity Institute reported that the species experienced rapid population declines over the past hundred years as a result of hunting, habitat destruction at nesting sites, oil spillages and competition for food resources with commercial fishing fleets.

It is now classified as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and is listed under Appendix II of the CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) which means that it is not yet threatened with extinction but will be without proper protection. In South Africa, it is further listed as a protected species under the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act.

Conservation authorities attempted to establish a colony in 2003 but it was abandoned due to severe predation by caracals in the reserve. CapeNature, in partnership with BirdLife South Africa has constructed a predator-proof fence around the area where the penguins are.

To further encourage the penguins to stay and breed in the area, life-like penguin decoys fitted with loudspeakers have been positioned along the shoreline. These decoys will play breeding sounds which would give the impression that there are penguins mating and breeding at that location. Brilliant.

“Although there are more years of hard work ahead of us, it is an important step to take now, as every year we wait, we lose more and more penguins,” says Christina Hagen, the Pamela Isdell Fellow of Penguin Conservation at BirdLife South Africa. The pioneering penguins were hatched from abandoned eggs found at other colonies and hand-reared by staff and volunteer at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

The freeing of the 30 African Penguins at De Hoop Nature Reserve comes a day before the release of Netflix’s “Penguin Town”, which explores the peculiar life of a group of African Penguins visit Simon’s Town once a year to breed.

The docuseries follows a group of the tuxedoed waterbirds around the town causing traffic jams and nesting in very human spaces. Promises to be as exciting as it looks!

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