Plan to save penguins floated

2012-08-21 22:20

Cape Town - A plan to save South Africa's rapidly dwindling African penguin population has been released for public comment by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

The draft biodiversity management plan, which aims to arrest the decline in the numbers of the distinctive black and white flightless aquatic bird, was published in the Government Gazette on Monday.

In a statement on Tuesday, environmental affairs said 80 years ago, the African penguin - known to ornithologists as Spheniscus demersus - had been the country's most abundant seabird.

"The African penguin is endemic as a breeding species to southern Africa and it is the only penguin that breeds in Africa. [It] was South Africa's most abundant seabird, but has suffered a massive population decline," the department said.

"The overall population may have been in the order of one million pairs in the 1920s, but it decreased to about 147 000 pairs in 1956/57."

This had dropped further to 75 000 pairs in 1978; to 63 000 pairs in 2001; and, to 25 000 pairs in 2009.

"Therefore, the present population is only some 2.5% of its level 80 years ago, and the decrease is continuing."

The decrease between the 1920s and the mid 1950s was mainly attributable to over-exploitation of African penguin eggs, nearly half of which were harvested each year for human consumption.

This practice was stopped in 1967.


Another contributing factor was substantial modification of the habitat at seabird islands due to guano collection in the past. In more recent times, large oil spills had also had a substantial impact.

"There is considerable concern about the poor conservation status of penguins and that they may become extinct in the future if drastic conservation steps are not immediately implemented," the department said.

Members of the public were invited to comment, within the next 30 working days, on the recently published plan.

"This is the first national management plan for the species and will lay the foundation for implementation action and future plans that will follow," the department said.

"[It] concentrates substantially on establishing guidelines around various aspects of African Penguin conservation and consolidating existing conservation work."

  • tammy.l.paxton - 2012-08-22 13:18

    Another BIG problem for the penguins is the amount of Cape Fur Seals. They killed so many Cape Gannet chicks on "Malgas" island that the birds had a failed breeding season. Seals also consume up to 10% of their bodyweight in fish every day. Multiply this by just 100 000 seals who weigh about 80 kg each. They consume upwards of 800 ton of sardine and other fish per day. I am positive there are much more than 100 000 seals along our coast. They have taken over "See Island" here on the West Coast. It is so bad, the birds hardly have any place left to nest anymore. And we are truly lucky to catch a glimpse of a penguin here. The seal population is getting out of control and something needs to be done. I'd suggest cull a few every year to keep numbers in check. Anyone who wants to tell me that seals are endangered here just needs to come down this side and go to sea and witness what is going on for themselves.

  • alan.meyer.14 - 2012-08-23 12:13

    The cape fur seals is at present the biggest threat to your penguins, since you stopped culling seals their population has exploded exploiting their natural habitat and their food supply wich includes the sardines and pilchards that are needed for the penguins start keeping control of your seal numbers . seals and pengiuns compete for the same food, and seals eat pengiuns as well. Take a page out of Namibia,s book and use your natural recources.

      Desilusionada - 2012-08-23 12:21

      Alan you got it in one! 100% correct. They stare themselves blind at pictures of little furry baby seals, and ignore a "stupid little fish"

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