“Penguins are fascinating creatures, intriguing scientists and tourists alike. Whether offering us the mystery and beauty of a 300-metre dive or entertaining us with comic clumsiness on land, these charismatic creatures delight the eye and captivate the heart.” - Phil Hockey 2001
The African Penguin is the only penguin species that breeds in Africa. More than 40% of African Penguins breed on the islands between Saldanha Bay and Cape Town, with almost another 40% breeding within Algoa Bay near Port Elizabeth. The present population is about 10% of that at the start of the 20th century when it was estimated at over 1.45 million adult birds.
- In the 1950’s the population had declined to 300 000 adults
- By the late 1970’s to only 220 000.
- By the late 1980’s, the population was down to 194 000 adults
- In the early 1990’s only 179 000 adults remained.
- The latest African Penguin Sensus revealed that there is less than 100 000 adults left
Given the large decrease in the 20th century, there is considerable concern about the long-term viability of the African Penguin in the wild. Guano and egg collection caused a near collapse in the penguin population. More recently, reduced availability of pelagic fish, resulting from competition with commercial fisheries, has been responsible for the ongoing declines. The vulnerability of African Penguins is increased further by its concentration within relatively small geographic areas. Consequently, catastrophic events, in the form of oil spills affecting thousands of birds have now become one of the most important immediate threats facing African Penguins.
The one ray of hope in this otherwise dark cloud is that the African Penguin is a robust and tough animal and thus able to deal with the rehabilitation process far better than other species. Combine this factor with a well planned and managed rehabilitation facility and the penguins are in with a fighting chance. SANCCOB was established in the Western Cape in the 1960’s and they have been doing a sterling job to rescue oiled and sick birds in the Western Cape.
For the past 20 years the rehabilitation and rescue work has been done by a group of dedicated volunteers in Jeffreys Bay under the guidance of local vet Dr. Dave Hartley and his wife Chrystal. They worked tirelessly and without any outside funding. When Dave passed away in 2003, Chrystal kept the penguin rehabilitation going but the need for a more formal centre became evident. Apart from the J’Bay Penguin Group the staff at Bayworld in Port Elizabeth also did a sterling job under difficult circumstances to try and lend a helping hand.
In the Eastern Cape the rehabilitation efforts has been fairly fragmented up to now. In 2005 Ajubatus Marine and Wildlife Rescue recognised this need and decided to establish a rehabilitation facility in the Eastern Cape. The facility was formally opened in December 2006 and in October 2008 the management of the centre was transferred to Penguins - Eastern Cape.
Now the penguins in the Eastern Cape can also claim access to the best medical advise available. They however need your support.