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Penguins released

In a world filled with bad news the joy of a penguin release is rightfully one of those treasured feel-good moments.

On Friday 27 December, the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) in Gansbaai returned 16 adult African penguins to the wild.

The birds had been treated at the APSS for a variety of reasons, including wounds, diseases, dehydration and starvation. According to Brenda du Toit of APSS, the release of these rehabilitated adult African penguins is conservation gold.

“To stabilise and grow the African penguin population, we need to protect the adult birds. They need to go forth and multiply. Adult penguins have a higher survival rate than newly fledged chicks.”

She says with the current sardine biomass at an all-time low, there is very little good news for the African penguin. “Research informs us that when the sardine biomass is below 2 million tons, less than 46% of the chicks will fledge. The fledgling penguins will, like any youngster, take between four to six years to explore their options before they settle with a partner and start breeding.

“The African penguin population is plummeting towards inevitable extinction and it is only through active conservation measures like rescue and rehabilitation efforts that we are managing to keep their heads above water.”

Du Toit says when the first African Penguin census was conducted in 1956, a total of 300 000 adult African penguins were recorded. Fewer than 42 000 adult African penguins remain in the wild.

“The Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT), through the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary is committed to making a difference. Conservation is about more than rehabilitation, it is vital because every penguin counts, but it is only one small step in the journey to rebuild the population. DICT also focuses on habitat restoration through the deployment of artificial nests, preventing disasters, such as oil spills and disease outbreaks, and influencing fishing policy, to ensure that penguin feeding areas are awarded special protection.”

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