Working together to save the African penguin

The endangered African penguin

According to the 2010 IUCN Red Data List, the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is heading for extinction. African penguin numbers in the wild have declined by up to 90% over the last 100 years. The 2012 census done in South Africa indicates that we lost over 1 500 pairs in a year, while the latest research indicates that there are fewer than 25 000 breeding pairs of penguins left in the wild. It is these facts that led to the species being declared endangered.

Sea World has housed African penguins since 1980, when the first stranded birds were received. Since then the colony has grown from strength to strength and hundreds of penguins have hatched successfully.

In October 2013, after extensive work and many meetings, the African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) was published. This plan provides a "road map" to save this iconic species. One of the key features of the BMP is a call for improved collaboration between the various stakeholders involved in penguin conservation.

Bird and mammal staffer Kelly de Klerk with Sea World penguins

The various facilities in South Africa that house African penguins have come together under the auspices of the Pan African Zoo and Aquarium Association (PAAZA) to form an African Penguin African Preservation Programme (AP-APP). This programme helps to ensure effective communication between the national conservation agencies, researchers, relevant NGOs and PAAZA facilities.

Last week SAAMBR’s conservation strategist, Judy Mann, who is currently coordinating the PAAZA AP-APP, attended a meeting of the population reinforcement working group, convened as one component of the BMP. The outcomes of the workshop will lead to improved collaboration and informed decision-making, which, together with a passion for penguins, will help to halt the decline of this special bird.

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