Penguins of Boulder’s Beach, South Africa – UPDATE

Boulders Beach Penguins

Boulders Beach Penguins

These little guys in their tuxedos are cute and photogenic, a major attraction on Boulders Beach, which is part of Table Mountain National Park, South Africa. They are also endangered.

It seems that the African Penguin also known as the Jackass Penguin (because of their donkey like bray), has been a target for centuries. It started with the intrepid but under nourished sailors who would hunt them for their meat and eggs. This was not difficult since the penguin is a flightless bird and their legs are made for swimming not running.

African Penguin

African Penguin

It continued on in the mid 1800’s when it was discovered that the penguin guano (penguin waste) was an incredibly rich fertilizer. A valuable commodity if you were selling this to farmers who depended heavily on their crop for financial survival. The problem is, the guano is a key building block for the penguin nests. The birds will gather on a small island out at sea and return annually to nest here. Layers of guano will pile up with each year of residence. They burrow down and dig out a shelter in the deep layers of guano that ultimately shield their eggs from the elements. In harvesting tons of guano the ‘farmers’ would approach the islands by boat, destroying nests and killing birds who objected.

Boulders Beach Viewing deck and walkway

Boulders Beach Viewing deck and walkway

When the mid 1800 guano harvesting frenzy died down, the fishermen and over fishing took over the potential threat to the penguin colonies along the Southern African coast. With a dwindling supply of fish, the penguin’s livelihood was threatened. Regulations are now in place and permits required for fishing and extractive diving. Further regulations include no quad biking or two wheel motorbikes are allowed on the beaches. No water craft like jet skis are allowed on the water regulated by Table Mountain National Park.

Penguins are critters of habit, they mate for life and burrow one nest to which they return annually. They lay a mere two eggs and often only one chick will survive. With all the disturbances to their habitats, the penguins started coming ashore to burrow under bushes, in residential gardens and on the beaches. This is not a suitable substitute for guano though and chick survival dwindled. Sanparks (South African National Parks) stepped in to help the penguins out. Today measures have been taken to provide nests for the penguins.

UPDATE: You can help by purchasing a nest box which will be placed in one of the 29 breeding colonies in the Western Cape Province. This option is now closed. A new option to help has been introduced. Please see the end of this post for more information.

Reasons for the current population decline (Courtesy of

• Heat stress (global warming, mid summer days – Temperatures higher than 34°C.

• Increased nest abandonment and chick death.

• High Rainfall – nest flooding, chick drowning.

• Increased pelagic fishing industry = reduced availability of food.

• Limited mortality to penguins caught in nets.

• Limited mortality to penguins and seals – shot at sea by fisherman – exact number unknown- enforcement and education are important.

• Competition with other predators – seals and sharks.

• Human interference and disturbance (direct interactions, tourism impacts – boardwalks, Burgers Walk).

• Egg loss due to predators – kelp gulls, mongoose, snakes.

• Chick loss due to predators – mongoose, otter, cats, genet, leopards.

• Adult death due to predators – seals, sharks, dogs etc.

• Loss of Habitat: Competition for breeding space.

• Marine Disturbances: Alternating regimes of high and low abundance of Sardine and Anchovy worldwide, including the Benguela system.

• Pollution impacts the mortality of penguins such as oil, diesel, or chemicals spillages.

• Catastrophic events (e.g. fire at colonies such at Stony Point, Boulders).

• Injuries / Mortality due to motor vehicles.

• Deformities impacting on breeding and feeding.

• Penguins do contract diseases.

Current Mitigating Measures courtesy of

• Population monitoring (MCM, SANParks, Cape Nature, BirdlifeSA etc.).

• Legal protection (Seabirds and Seals Act – no teeth yet!).

• Security of food base (MCM- Intergrated Coastal Management; FCO’s).

• Management of oiling (Port Control, Preparation, Response).

• Management of breeding habitat (Site specific management).

• Management of predation – seals, (kelp gulls), cats, dogs.

• Management of mortality arising from humans – SANParks, Betty’s Bay Municipality – Enforcement / restrict access / Visitor Management

• Management of tourism – Boulders, Stoney Point.

• Management of captive populations – SANCCOB, Adjubatis, Bayworld, Aquarium, Various Zoo sites.

• Establishment of new colonies – feasibility & Practicality.

How can I help? UPDATED INFORMATION AS AT 11/18/2012

Contact SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) to adopt a penguin. Their are two options:

1) Adopt a penguin by naming it, and paying for its rehabilitation and release back into the wild. For more info, click here and additional questions and answers. Current value of this donation SA Rand 500.00 (USD 56.00)

2) Adopt a penguin from our Home Pen and help us to maintain and provide an excellent quality of life for our permanent residents. For more info, click here and additional questions and answers. Current value of this donation SA Rand 1,000.00 (USD 112.00)

Copyright © 2012 all Rights Reserved

Author: Principle writer – Celeste Wilson

We welcome reblogging with attribution and link.

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