Penguin Palooza 2018 at Stony Point
Members of the public flocked to the the third Penguin Palooza at the Stony Point Reserve in Betty’s Bay on Saturday, 27 October 2018. The highlight of the event, which was co-hosted by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) and CapeNature, was the release of 13 rehabilitated African penguins back into their natural habitat.
The first batch of penguins out of the boxes took a look around to orient themselves, then made a beeline for the ocean and were soon swimming into the open sea. One more went splashing out after them and then it was the turn of the last four penguins to emerge from the boxes. They did a few practice stretches for their adoring public, tested the icy waters… and promptly waddled back onto the warm beach, easily outflanking the humans who were trying to encourage them into the sea.
The iconic and endangered African penguin is the only penguin species to naturally occur on the African continent. It was once one of South Africa’s most abundant seabirds, but has suffered a massive decline in numbers with only 2% of the historic population left in the wild today.
Dr Razeena Omar, Chief Executive Officer of CapeNature commented that, “This penguin colony is of national, as well as international, conservation significance for the African penguin species…”
The African penguin colony at Stony Point is one of the two mainland breeding colonies in South Africa (the other one being Boulders in Simon’s Town). Stony Point is the only colony that has shown an increase in the number of African penguins in the last decade.
Katta Ludynia, SANCCOB’s Research Manager, saids, “Together, CapeNature and SANCCOB rangers rescue abandoned and weak chicks for rehabilitation at SANCCOB. Once healthy enough for release, we mark each penguin with a transponder, enabling SANCCOB to evaluate the survival and breeding locations of the penguins if they cross the strategically placed transponder readers at the colonies.”
After the release, festivities continued with a community market, including the Mooi Uitsig arts and crafts project by children from Betty’s Bay, a penguin movie screening and fun-filled educational activities.