Berea Mail last week reported on the birth of two African penguins, endearingly name Venus and Victory, at uShaka Sea World. The South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) and the team at uShaka Sea World say they are beyond thrilled that they have the chance to contribute to growing and protecting the endangered African penguin population.
According to SAAMBR spokesperson Ann Kunz, there has been a development in marine conservation that prohibits fishing around the islands where African Penguins breed and live, which will greatly help to combat the decline in their population.
“The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DFFE), together with various conservation organisations and research institutions, have been monitoring the African penguin population and noted an 8% decline per year since 2005, which puts them at risk of becoming functionally extinct within the next two decades. To understand the threats and how to mitigate some of them, DFFE appointed an international review panel in December 2022,” said Kunz.
“Highly esteemed scientists worked together and delivered a report to the department in July 2023 with the short-term recommendations of excluding fishing around island breeding colonies. Research at Dassen and Robben islands demonstrated that closing fishing around these breeding colonies is likely to reduce the rate of decline in the population to some extent, while various other contributing factors need to be taken into consideration too,” said Kunz.
She added that balancing the interests of penguins, the fishing industry and accurate assessment of closure impacts, including the absence of closures, presents a complex challenge. “Evaluating closure options involves making policy choices that align with South Africa’s conservation, economic and societal aspirations. We hope that there is indeed more hope for these special birds, for Southern Africa’s only penguin species, to not just survive but to hopefully again one day thrive in the wild,” said Kunz.
Kunz added that the two new additions to the penguin rookery at uShaka are growing by the day, and uShaka Sea World staff have been caring for them around the clock.
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