In a joint conservation action between CapeNature, the management authority for Dyer Island and the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary, 32 African Penguin chicks were removed from Dyer Island in November 2015 and admitted to the APSS for care.
According to Deon Geldenhuys, Conservation Manager from CapeNature they closely monitor the development of the chicks on the island at this time of the year. Deon explained that the penguin life cycle is basically divided into two phases: breeding and moulting. The moulting phase begins shortly after the breeding season and the chicks are normally fledged before the onset of moulting. If the timing of these two phases overlap, the adult penguins could perish from starvation; therefore, penguin parents sometimes must abandon their chicks before they are fully fledged. “If not for the efforts of the chick bolstering project, these abandoned chicks would starve to death” says Deon.
Xolani Lawo, Senior Bird Rehabilitator at the APSS explained that the chicks will receive special care and enough fish to fatten them up during their stay at the sanctuary. According to Xolani, the chicks will be released back on Dyer Island once they have reached the required weight and they have a clean bill of health.
African penguin colonies are declining at an alarming rate - the present population is only 2.5% of its level 80 years ago. Around 141 000 breeding pairs of African penguins were counted in 1956, but last year the total had plummeted to only 19,000 pairs - a loss of nearly 90% in half a century.
“We are therefore at a point where every bird that we can save, counts” says Xolani.
When asked what the public can do to assist Xolani said that the public can make a big difference. “At the APPS we are willing to do the hard work of cutting sardines into sushi sized pieces, washing more towels than you can ever imagine, feeding all the begging little orphans and scrubbing & disinfecting the sanctuary daily but it is through the generosity of the public that we are able to do this work.” says Xolani.
The public can donate to the Fishy Fund to help feed the penguins or buy a booster block to assist with the rebuilding of the African penguin population. Donations of old towels are always welcome. “African penguins are part of our heritage. They are charismatic creatures and by getting to know more about them will to spread the word about the plight of our penguins” Xolani said.
The African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary is situated in Kleinbaai and open from 09:00 to 16:00 on a daily basis. Visitors can observe the penguins through one way glass and contribute to the cause by indulging in the coffee and cake on offer.