Cape Town - Permanent or temporary exclusion zones around African penguin breeding islands – including for fishing vessels – are among a raft of proposed conservation measures aimed at preventing the iconic species from possible extinction.
Other measures include looking at ways of protecting penguins at Burghers Walk, east of the Boulders penguin colony, in Simon’s Town; managing penguins’ natural predators such as Cape fur seals and kelp gulls, including possible culling; improved monitoring for oil pollution that affects penguins through increased aerial patrols; stopping the international trade in wild-caught penguins; and a capture, raise and release programme for penguin chicks that are unlikely to survive without intervention.
They are among measures outlined in a 65-page draft African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plan gazetted yesterday by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa. There is a 30-day comment period.
The African penguin, formerly known as the jackass penguin, was SA’s most abundant seabird in the early 20th century. However, its numbers have crashed so severely that its Red List status is given as “endangered”.
Ornithologists believe the population may have been as high as one million breeding pairs in the 1920s, but that dropped to 147 000 pairs in 1956/57, 75 000 pairs in 1978, 63 000 pairs in 2001 and just 25 000 pairs in 2009. The present population is only about 2.5 percent of its historical level.