The endangered Cape Penguin (Marine Big 5) has long since amused us with its peculiar attire, but recent studies show they won’t be doing so for much longer. Penguin populations used to consist of two million pairs globally, but had since dropped dramatically and we are now left with 26000 pairs. The 19th and 20th century saw the boom of the penguin guano and egg selling industry and has thus led to a decline in their numbers.
The biggest threat seems to result from habitat destruction, plastic and oil pollution and the decline in fish populations. The low numbers of fish mean the penguins have to search further away from their breeding grounds, for longer periods which means leaving their vulnerable chicks unattended for extended periods of time. The penguins are not the only ones struggling though, the Cape Gannet and Cape Cormorant numbers have also been affected, along with struggling fishermen.
Luckily there is some good news. The Percy Fitsgerald Institute of African Ornithology is hard at work trying to conserve our quaint tuxedo wearing friends. They are currently building artificial burrows for them on their islands, not unlike the Dyer Island Conservation Trust on Dyer Island. All conservationists encourage us to reduce marine pollution and do so simply by changing our lifestyles.
Another spark of hope was brought by the hatching of a Cape Penguin chick in the Minnesota Zoo. It is the first Penguin chick to be born in the exhibition since its opening in 2011. It may not be such a huge leap in numbers but it leads us to believe that we will be able to recover some of their numbers if we truly invest in their well-being.