There’s growing concern over the serious decline in the African Penguin population, which experts say could be extinct within the next 10 years. Now several organizations along the Southern African Coast are building artificial nests for the birds, as a conservation tactic.
There’s growing concern over the serious decline in the African Penguin population, which experts say could be extinct within the next 10 years.
The first two African Penguins arrived here at Boulders Beach, on the Atlantic Ocean, in 1982. They bred successfully the following year. And in 2005 there were nearly four thousand of them in this colony. But their numbers dropped dramatically in the past decade and at the moment there are around three thousand of them.
"Historically there were about two million breeding pairs around our Southern African coastline. At the moment there’s 19 to 21 000 breeding pairs remaining, Conservationist Justin Buchman said.
"Which is round about one per cent of the population existing. That trend in its current decline could lead to the extinction of the African Penguin in the wild in the next 10 years if we don’t put adequate conservation measures in place to arrest the decline. As an aspect of the eco-system these African Penguins play an incredibly important role. And as conservation managers we need to ensure their survival."
"We take it very seriously that we have a species on our doorstep that is approaching extinction. So we’ll do whatever it takes. We protect the birds at times when the environment gets extreme high heat or cold weather. Obviously we have marine accidents where the birds sometimes get covered in oil and they can die." Table Mountain National Park Manager Paddy Golding said.
Major threats to African Penguins are marine oil pollution and a decrease in food supply from the ocean, such as pilchards, sardines and anchovies.
And wildlife experts are so concerned about the dwindling numbers of this species, they are doing everything in their power to improve their breeding success rate.
This includes providing the penguins with specially designed nesting boxes in which they can burrow, incubate their eggs and protect their chicks from predators and harsh environmental conditions.
Conservation authorities decided to introduce the artificial nest boxes about five years ago, in an attempt to stop the decline of the African Penguin population along the Southern African Coastline.
"A percentage of the population of African Penguins nests simply on the ground. So they’ll have have a bit of an impression on the ground," Justin Buchman said.
"They’ll gather plant material around and they’ll create an open nest. Other penguins for whatever reason we don’t understand simply burrow. The idea of The initial boxes were just concrete pipes in the ground or bits of planking put together. We’ve now got to the stage where we’ve got a glass fibre mould which we’re testing. It hasn’t proven to be too successful. But we’re trying to find out the reasons why and improve that design, to ensure that we have a far greater nesting success. And that the penguins use far more of them."
"The penguin as we know it is really an amazing animal because it has to live on land and in the ocean. So they are almost a magical species for people to be able to see. And to get to see them this close is really a special privilege. As a conservationist, to be responsible for a population that’s really in decline, a population that’s chosen by its own design to be this close to us, its an amazing privilege. And we’ll do our best to protect them," Paddy Golding said.
Boulders Beach has become a major tourist attraction near Cape Town, with over 600-thousand visitors flocking there annually to get as close as possible to these burrow-nesting birds, without disturbing their natural habitat.
We came to see the penguins today. We’ve only seen them on TV. But it’s a very beautiful sight. And I hope they’re going to do something about conserving them."
"It’s a lovely experience to be able to see them and I hope one day I can bring my children here, also to see them.
The possibility of my kids not seeing these animals is absolutely heartbreaking. They’re having a terrific experience enjoying them. So, I hope that generations to come can enjoy these beautiful animals.