Penguins injured in road accidents

2016-05-31 06:00
 One penguin has died and three others have been injured after vehicle collisions in Simon’s Town. PHOTO: SANCCOB

One penguin has died and three others have been injured after vehicle collisions in Simon’s Town. PHOTO: SANCCOB

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Motorists have been cautioned to be on the lookout for penguins when driving through Simon’s Town following two accidents resulting in the death of one and the injury of three of the endangered birds.

The African penguin was classified as endangered in 2010. With an estimated 25 000 breeding pairs left in the wild, the population is at approximately 2.5% of the estimated figure of one million breeding pairs, recorded in the early 20th century. With the rapid decline of this species, the survival of individual penguins is critical.

Two vehicles were involved in a car accident on Wednesday 18 May in Simon’s Town, killing an African penguin and injuring a second penguin.

The accident occurred when the drivers of the vehicles attempted to avoid hitting a group of endangered African penguins crossing the main road near Boulders Beach.

None of the passengers in the vehicles were harmed, but unfortunately one of the penguins was killed and another sustained minor injuries. A Cape Medical Response team responded to the accident and contacted the Cape of Good Hope SPCA when it was determined that penguins had been involved in the accident.

A member of the SPCA’s Wildlife Unit assessed the injured seabird at the scene and the bird was then admitted to the SPCA’s animal hospital for further observation. The injured penguin has since been admitted to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Bird (Sanccob) to undergo rehabilitation at its centre in Table View.

In a separate and unrelated incident, on Thursday 19 May, South African National Parks (Sanparks) officials came across two more injured endangered African penguins in the Boulders Beach colony.

The type of injuries on the penguins indicated that they too may have been hit by a motor vehicle.

Sanparks officials were only able to capture one of the penguins, as the other managed to evade capture, retreating back into the colony area. Sanparks marine rangers are on the lookout for the injured bird which escaped.

The captured penguin sustained serious and life-threatening injuries, and is also being treated and monitored closely at Sanccob’s seabird rehabilitation centre.

Members of the public are requested to be vigilant when driving through Simon’s Town. Despite the efforts of Sanparks, who manage the Boulders Beach penguin colony, these endangered seabirds manage to find their way out of the protected area and can, on occasion, be found crossing streets and wandering into the urban areas.

Monique Ruthenberg, section ranger at Sanparks Table Mountain National Park, says: “This time of year there is an increased risk of car accidents involving penguins due to wet roads, speeding motorists and the fact that penguins are small and difficult to spot given their black backs. Penguins are still in breeding season and frequently move between their nests and the ocean, often at night. As such, we urge members of the public to significantly reduce their speed when driving nearby colony areas and to keep an eye out for penguins.”

Sanccob’s rehabilitation manager, Nicky Stander, adds that African penguins face numerous threats.

“We urge everyone to help us protect this precious and endangered seabird. When visiting Simon’s Town, or any area where humans coexist with animals, try to adhere to the speed limits, drive cautiously and be aware of these little birds, which may be crossing roads.”

V Members of the public who encounter an injured seabird or a penguin outside of the protected colony area, are urged to contact SANParks on 021 786 2329 (office hours) or 0861 106417 (24-hour emergency number), or Sanccob’s emergency response team on 021 557 6155 (office hours) or 078 638 3731 (24-hour emergency number).

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