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African (Jackass) Penguins at Boulders, Cape Town

 African Penguins Facing Extinction

A Global Indicator Species

The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is found in nature in the oceans of Southern Africa and nowhere else. It is a Global Indicator Species, meaning that the African Penguin serves as an early warning indicator of environmental changes such as global warming, pollution and overfishing in the oceans. It is a species in trouble and some estimates are that extinction will take place within 7 to 11 years.

The African Penguin was classified as an endangered species in 2010.

Maritime disasters and the threat of pollution

In July 2000, an iron-ore carrier, the Treasure, sank in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cape Town, threatening two crucial breeding grounds of the African Penguin (Dassen Island and Robben Island). Nearly 20,000 penguins were coated in thick oil spilling out from the sunken vessel. This was to become the largest wildlife rescue operation ever undertaken up to that time. Thousands of volunteers stepped forward to help – both local and international (including USA, Canada, Germany, the UK and Australia).

The great triumph of this effort can be attributed to so many who were involved in this huge undertaking. Here are two of those accounts.


Dyan deNapoli: The great penguin rescue

[11:44 min] [Attribution: TEDTalks]

A personal story, a collective triumph: Dyan deNapoli tells the story of the world's largest volunteer animal rescue, which saved more than 20,000 penguins after an oil spill off the coast of South Africa. How does a job this big get done? Penguin by penguin by penguin ...



The birds were first sprayed with a degreaser - a light mixture of vegetable oil and ethanol alcohol to loosen the crude oil. They are then thoroughly washed at least seven or eight times in buckets of LDC (Light Duty Concentrate) and warm water. LDC had no harsh or negative side effects on the already distraught animals.


GNLD Operation Penguin GNLD@BrewerNutrition]

A huge contingent of international volunteers from as far as the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom. Germany and Australia assisted in the cleanup effort. GNLDs LDC was the detergent product that successfully removed the thick crude oil from the tens of thousands of affected penguins from Dassen and Robben Islands



The enormous success of the oil cleanup effort saved over 19,000 penguins from certain death in 2000.

Diminishing Penguin Populations throughout Southern Africa

The penguin colony at Boulders Beach near Simonstown (on Cape Town's Peninsula) continued a healthy growth in numbers until 2005, with the birds nesting even in private gardens. Since that time, however, the population at Boulders has seen an alarming shrinkage - a trend that has been occurring across South Africa and Namibia. In 2010, African penguins were reclassified to Endangered. Researchers are endeavoring to understand the causes and are taking counter-measures to improve nesting habitats.

Fighting Back for the Survival of the African Penguin

Penguins mate for life and return annually to the same nest. They lay just two eggs and often only one chick will survive. With all the disturbances to their habitats, chick survival has dwindled.

A number of organizations, including SANCCOB and Dyer Island Conservation Trust, are working to halt the decline of the African Penguin. Measures include hand-rearing and releasing abandoned chicks, setting up artificial nests to provide suitable nest sites and proclaiming marine reserves where fishing is prohibited


Penguin homes at Stony Point

[4:08 min] [Attribution: DyerTrust]

The African penguins living in the Stony Point colony in Betty's Bay (near Cape Town) recently received 200 new nests donated and installed by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. The penguin colony will benefit greatly from the donation that will provide shelter and protection to the penguins. Volunteers from the Dyer Island Conservation Trust helped install the nests.



How you can help:              Contact: Dyer Island Conservation Trust

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