South Africa: igloos to house penguins

Jackass penguin

From The Australian:

Penguins move into igloo development

From correspondents in Johannesburg

September 20, 2006

SOUTH African officials have built a housing development of fibreglass igloos for a colony of endangered penguins, hoping to replicate natural nesting grounds damaged by environmental degradation.

The penguin housing colony on Dyer Island, near Cape Town, is seen as a last ditch effort to save the colony, which has dwindled to just 5000 animals, from 25000 in the 1970s, officials said today.

“We’re trying to copy the natural system.

Academics and scientists have given us input and we’re monitoring success on an ongoing basis,” said Lauren Waller, nature conservator for CapeNature, the provincial environmental preservation body.

Dyer Island, a bleak islet popular with shark spotting tours, was once rich in nutrient-rich guano – bird faeces – but has seen the resource stripped by commercial enterprises who sell it as fertiliser.

That proved bad news for the African penguins – formerly known as Jackass penguins – which rely on guano to nest their eggs, hide from predators and provide a rare spot of shade on an island almost devoid of trees and bushes.

Conservationists now plan to construct up to 2000 artificial burrows on the island, hoping the fibreglass igloos will persuade more penguins to procreate.

See also here.

African penguin webcam in California: here.

The name jackass penguin is from their sound.

A different, but somewhat similar sounding, penguin species (Gentoo penguin in English) is called ezels-(=jackass) pinguin in Dutch.

A recent catastrophic decline in numbers of African penguins in the wild has raised alarm with conservationists, and a research and conservation programme has been set up by Bristol Zoo and others: here.

Penguin species threatened by extinction: here.

9 thoughts on “South Africa: igloos to house penguins

  1. South Africa: ‘My True Love Gave Me – a Penguin?’

    Cape Argus (Cape Town)

    December 14, 2006
    Posted to the web December 14, 2006

    Environment & Science Writer
    Cape Town

    African Penguins may not believe in Father Christmas, but, if they did, they would certainly find their Christmas wishes coming true this season – at least as far as more than 800 of this threatened species are concerned.

    They are orphaned chicks from the major penguin colonies of Dyer Island, Robben Island and Betty’s Bay, and would have faced death by starvation had they not been taken to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob).

    They were all born late in the breeding season, unable to fend for themselves by the time their parents began to moult. During this process, they are not waterproof and cannot catch fish.

    Sanccob said the hand-rearing of the orphans at its Rietvlei headquarters had gone “exceptionally well” and it aimed to get as many of them as possible to their colonies by Christmas.

    A first batch was released a fortnight ago on Dyer Island, and a second at Robben Island on Tuesday.

    Sanccob fund-raiser Darden Lotz said the cost of rehabilitating the chicks had been high and she appealed to the public to “adopt” a penguin, at R500, to help Sanccob cover its bills.

    “People can adopt a penguin as a Christmas gift for someone else, and the adoption papers and penguin photograph will be sent to that person as ‘a gift with a difference’,” said Lotz.


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