American news journalist, Joe Moore, couldn’t have said it better and this year’s countdown to 11 October 2014’s national African Penguin Awareness Day has begun. This a day is dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of our endangered African penguin. And the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa will be celebrating with its huddle of penguins!
Penguin numbers looking grim
Population numbers of the African penguin are on the decline with their status listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, and it could possibly be South Africa’s most rapidly declining bird. In the past eight years its population has halved; today fewer than 21,000 pairs remain.
Over recent decades the fish stocks that the penguins rely on completely for their food have been changing. It is believed that a combination of over-fishing and climate change have had dramatic effects on the sardines, anchovies and herrings that the penguins normally feed on. The fish numbers have not only declined but it has been noted that they are moving generally eastwards along the coast. This leaves the penguins at their traditional breeding sites with an extreme shortage of food, and unable to follow the movement of fish without abandoning their chicks, thus leaving them to die.
The African penguin is indigenous to the southern African coastline.
What the NZG is doing?
The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa coordinates the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (PAAZA) conservation breeding programme (APP) for the African penguin. This entails that, as well as caring for and managing its own flock of 27 African penguins, it also monitors and make breeding recommendations for all of the approximately 230 African penguins being housed by other zoos that participate in the conservation programme.
The NZG is also helping to plan the future release of captive African penguins back into the wild by carrying out detailed risk assessments for reintroduction for Cape Nature and investigating the genetics of wild African penguin populations.
The African penguin was once South Africa’s most abundant sea bird. However, it has suffered a massive reduction in numbers. The overall population may have been in the order of one million pairs in the 1920s, but decreased to about 147 000 pairs in 1956/57, 75 000 pairs in 1978, 63 000 pairs in 2001 and 25 000 pairs in 2009.
Join us for our African Penguin Day Awareness Day activities
On Saturday, 11 October 2014, the NZG is planning some activities for its visitors to promote the awareness of the plight of flightless birds. A colouring competition will be held for children from the ages of 4-10 years with some cute and cuddly prizes up for grabs.
Various feeding times will take place at the penguin enclosure accompanied by educational public talks, as well as a penguin and seal show at the zoo’s Stormy Bay exhibit.
ISSUED BY: ANGELINé SCHWAN
TEL: 012 339 2705 / 079 998 7715
E-MAIL: [email protected]