Penguin pairings plan to increase genetic diversity

One of three African penguins en route to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town in a customised transport box. Image by Kelly de Klerk

It had all the makings of a match made in heaven when a trio of African penguins was flown to Cape Town last week, to meet potential mates at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

uShaka Sea World animal behaviourist Raecine Bates and veterinarian Caryl Furness accompanied the three birds – Laduma, Labomba and Nonu – all of which were all born at uShaka Sea World.

Nonu was selected as a mate for Zuki, and Laduma as a possible mate for Ayoba. Two Oceans’ Zuki and Ayoba have remained mateless at Two Oceans for a number of years. Expectations are that they will find our matchmaking skills agreeable and will soon start breeding.

On arrival at Two Oceans, Nonu was immediately introduced to Zuki and the pair spent time alone getting to know each other in a separate enclosure, away from the other penguins. Laduma and Labomba will be introduced to their new partners over the next few weeks.

Litter does not belong in the ocean – uShaka Sea World (with the help of its penguins) is campaigning against litter ending up in the ocean. Visit www.penguinpromises.com to see how you can help.

Caryl and Raecine spent two days settling the birds into their new home, and ensuring that they remained in perfect health. The aim of moving birds from uShaka Sea World to Two Oceans is to increase genetic diversity among captive-bred African penguins (Spheniscus demersus).

These small birds, which were once the most abundant South African seabirds, are endemic to the Southern African coastline. The decrease in their numbers in the wild has reached alarming proportions, resulting in their status changing from “threatened” to “endangered”.

Their dramatic decline is believed to be largely due to a lack of available fish around their traditional breeding colonies. Whether because of overfishing or climate change, fish shoals are moving further away from the penguin breeding grounds, resulting in fewer birds being able to swim the vast distances required to bring home food for their chicks.

We will be tracking the penguins' love lives in the hope that 2013 brings the patter of little penguin feet.

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