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Friday, April 12, 2024

African Penguins On Track For Extinction

At the current rate of decline over 500 breeding pairs of the iconic African penguins in the wild may be obliterated this year and every year for the next decade, according to scientific research. By 2035, there probably won’t be enough breeding pairs left for the species to survive in the wild.

While the South African government maintained already existing fishing closures around some of the African penguin colonies on August 4, it’s far from enough to make a significant impact and stop the plunge toward extinction. The #NotOnOurWatch campaign (#NOOW), created by the Cape Town-based Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation and its South African and global partners, including The Florida Aquarium, Georgia Aquarium and Australia’s Zoos Victoria, are taking action.

The African penguin, found in the wild only in South Africa and Namibia, is one of the few penguin species that can be visited in urban coastal areas. It’s labelled as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on its Red List of Threatened Species.

The #NOOW campaign’s strategy is to raise worldwide public awareness about the plight of the African penguin, to encourage the South African government to enact stricter policies and laws that will ensure this species continues to exist in the wild, and to support the conservation community.

“One of the biggest challenges is food availability. With fish stocks collapsing and fewer sardines available, African penguins are struggling to get enough food,’’ according to Dr Mann. “ Colony management, habitat for breeding, disease, predation by seals and gulls and the impact of storms and flooding are added challenges for the African penguin.’’

Instead of the public watching helplessly as extinction beckons, the #NOOW campaign is planning a Worldwide Waddle on October 14, which is International African Penguin Awareness Day. The campaign wants nature-loving children, adults, sports clubs, businesses, conservation groups, communities, radio stations, television outlets, newspapers, suburbs, towns, villages and cities, both inland and in coastal areas around the world, to join or arrange waddles and post their support, starting today, to social media, tagging #NOOW.

The campaign also wants penguin-lovers everywhere to email their encouragement to South Africa’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, who has also vowed that not on her watch will these penguins disappear. Go to www.africanpenguins.org to hit a button, send the letter and to find out more about the waddles.

Since 1979, when official counting began, the breeding population of the African penguin has declined to less than 11,000 breeding pairs. Look back 100 years and it’s an estimated 99% drop.

The task ahead is daunting, but it’s not impossible. #NOOW is a call to action and much will be done.


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