• Carol Walton

Fish Migration & New Colonies

The African penguin numbers are collapsing! Research has shown that breeding numbers in 2001 was 56 000 pairs while now this has plummeted to only 15 500 pairs. The African Penguin has now been classified as endangered.

The pairs in the Western Cape colonies (such as Dassen Island, Robben Island colony and Boulders Beach) have decreased dramatically. The main reasons for this is due to the fact that their main food which is anchovy and pilchard is also the target of purse-seine fisheries. To add to this, there has been a migration of these specific species of fish to the Southern and Eastern parts of the country because of a change in water temperatures due to climate change.

With this rapid decline it has been decided to set up 2 new colonies in the Southern and Eastern Cape. These proposed areas are the De Hoop Nature Reserve and Keurbooms Peninsula. This is done with a passive approach where artificial penguins are used that constantly call which will encourage penguins into these areas. No penguin will start its own colony but with hearing others they should enter these new colonies.

Saprec in Mossel Bay has already seen an increase in the African penguins needing care at our centre. We rescue and rehabilitate penguins between Wilderness and Stilbaai and when comparing 2018 our intake of African Penguins (as well as other Seabirds) compared to 2017 the numbers has significantly increased (15 in 2017 and 60 from beginning 2018 up until 16 April 2019).

With the development of these 2 new colonies, we foresee a further increase in numbers and with Saprec right in the middle we play a vital and a more relevant role in saving the African Penguin species than ever before.

[Source Reference: BirdLife South Africa]