24 October 2012 – Saving Private Jackass

085 Jackass

Stony Point in Betty’s Bay, South Africa

S34°22.191 E18°53.706

We took the “Souties” (Boer&Brit) to see the Stony Point penguin colony in Betty’s Bay just in time to witness the collar-and-tied 5’o’clock parade from fishing grounds to breeding area.

The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus), widely known as the “Jackass” Penguin for its donkey-like bray, is a species of penguin confined to southern African waters and is currently listed in the Red Data Book as an endangered species.

The general decrease in their numbers has been attributed to many factors.  Until very recently, penguin eggs were considered a delicacy and were collected for sale.  This practice also included smashing older eggs to ensure only fresh ones were collected.  Their population decline was further hastened by the removal of guano from islands for use as fertilizer.  This eliminated the burrowing material used by penguins.

Other factors include commercial fishing that has resulted in a decrease in their preferred prey, and has forced these penguins to search farther off shore.  Global climate change is also affecting prey abundance.

An estimated 4 million penguins existed at the beginning of the 1900’s.  The total population fell to 200,000 in the year 2000, and ten years later, in 2010, the number was estimated to be only at 55,000.  If this decline is not halted, the African Penguin is expected to be extinct within the next 15 years.

Penguins remain susceptible to pollution of their habitat by petrochemicals from spills, shipwrecks and cleaning of tankers while at sea.

This was reiterated in 2000 following the sinking of the iron ore tanker MV Treasure between Robben Island and Dassen Island along the Cape coast of South Africa.  Over 1,300 tons of fuel oil were released into the coastal waters, oiling 19,000 adult penguins and thousands of other coastal birds.  Over 19,500 un-oiled penguins were removed from this area and temporarily relocated 800 kilometres east of Cape Town, allowing workers a couple of weeks to complete the clean-up of oil before they return to their nesting grounds.

Tens of thousands of volunteers descended upon Cape Town to help with the rescue and rehabilitation process.  It was the largest animal rescue event in history, took three months to complete and resulted in the successful rehabilitation and release of more than 91% of the penguins.

Suikerbossies support the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).

Visit Jackass at www.geocaching.com

Post-blog note:  Suikerbossies have since activated Petronella Pikkewyn (Penguin) TB in support of the cause.