African penguin chicks removed from Dyer Island

  • November 25, 2015

In a joint conservation action between CapeNature, the management authority for Dyer Island and the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary, a project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, 32 African Penguin chicks were removed from Dyer Island on Wednesday 11 November 2015 and admitted to the APSS for care. The Trust was started by Wilfred Chivell of Fair Trade certified businesses Dyer Island Cruises and Marine Dynamics Tours and it is through the efforts of these companies that the conservation work is a reality. The team used Dream Catcher, Dyer Island Cruises new boat, to move the chicks after receiving them from Happy Feet, a rubber dinghy donated by Nautic to the APSS.

According to Deon Geldenhuys, Conservation Manager from CapeNature they closely monitor the development of the chicks on the island at this time of the year. Deon explained that the penguin life cycle is basically divided into two phases: breeding and moulting. The moulting phase begins shortly after the breeding season and the chicks are normally fledged before the onset of moulting. If the timing of these two phases overlap, the adult penguins could perish from starvation; therefore, penguin parents sometimes must abandon their chicks before they are fully fledged. “If not for the efforts of the chick bolstering project, these abandoned chicks would starve to death” says Deon.

Xolani Lawo, Senior Bird Rehabilitator at the APSS explained that the chicks will receive special care and enough fish to fatten them up during their stay at the sanctuary. According to Xolani, the chicks will be released back on Dyer Island once they have reached the required weight and they have a clean bill of health.

African penguin colonies are declining at an alarming rate - the present population is only 2.5% of its level 80 years ago. Around 141 000 breeding pairs of African penguins were counted in 1956, but last year the total had plummeted to only 19,000 pairs - a loss of nearly 90% in half a century. “We are therefore at a point where every bird that we can save, counts” says Xolani. . “At the APPS we do the hard work of cutting sardines into sushi sized pieces, washing more towels than you can ever imagine, feeding all the begging little orphans and scrubbing & disinfecting the sanctuary daily but it is through the generosity of the public that we are able to do this work.” says Xolani.

The African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary is situated in Kleinbaai, Gansbaai and is open from 09:00 to 16:00 on a daily basis.  Visitors can observe the penguins through one way glass and contribute to the cause by indulging in the coffee and cake on offer.

-Shark Watch SA

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