Birth of 6 African Penguins
6 chicks have been born in our African penguin colony these last few months!
The keepers of the bird nursery have already started to habituate the oldest, born at the end of May and already weighing 3kg, to be fed by hand so that it can receive the antimalarial treatment administrated to the whole colony several months a year, when mosquitoes are most numerous.
The five other penguins are still raised by their parents inside their burrows. Burrows are regularly controlled by the keepers in order to monitor the development of the chicks and identify any new egg-laying. The chicks remain in the burrow between 30 and 45 days before taking their first steps outdoors. At 45 days, they start being fed by the keepers in a small enclosure adjacent to that of the colony. Once they’re fully habituated to accept their food from the keepers’ hand, they can join the other penguins in the colony.
Some wild colonies of African penguins are facing a dramatic decline: those of Algoa Bay in South Africa have lost more than 70% of their breeding individuals since 2014! The Western Cape population, the species’ historic stronghold, is declining by 10% annually. An alarming situation due to the scarcity of anchovies and sardine shoals, pelagic fishes yet essential to the survival of penguins and many other seabirds. This decrease in their prey availability is related to overfishing and modification in marine currents due to climate change. This directly impacts the breeding success of the penguins and the survival of their chicks. Today, fewer than 10,000 breeding pairs remain in South Africa, a worrying figure that prompts our field conservation partner in South Africa, the SANCCOB, to call for rapid action to preserve the only penguin species found on the African continent.
SANCCOB recently rescued around 100 severely emaciated African penguin chicks in dire need of veterinary care, most weighing less than 1,5kg which is far from the 2,5kg they should weigh at this age. The chicks were transported to one of SANCCOB’s rehabilitation center for hand-rearing and have since received constant care: rehydration, gradual refeeding and rehabilitation pools. The individuals who can be put back on feet will be released.
These increasing emergency rescues require an enormous amount of time, human resources and money to be carried out successfully. The implementation of an “Ecosystem approach to fisheries” (i.e. a more sustainable fishing taking into account the food requirements of marine predators such as penguins and marine birds) is demanded by environmental organizations and scientists.
In the meantime, SANCCOB is forced to increase its interventions to save more and more birds.
Urgent action is needed.
F. Perroux/Zoo de La Palmyre