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Media Release: Penguins suffer under harsh weather conditions

Date: 2010-06-17

Extreme winds and cold, wet weather have taken their toll on the breeding colonies of African penguins on Addo Elephant National Park’s islands in the Eastern Cape.

Extreme winds and cold, wet weather have taken their toll on the breeding colonies of African penguins on Addo Elephant National Park’s islands in the Eastern Cape.

Over 480 penguin chicks have died during the past 24 hours on Bird Island in Algoa Bay. The chicks, aged between a few weeks old and about two months old and covered only with down feathers, succumbed to the cold, wet weather which has hit the Eastern Cape.

With incidences of harsh weather, it is common for approximately one third of a penguin population’s chicks to be killed. However with only 700 breeding pairs of African penguins on Bird Island, the death of over half the populations’ chicks presents an added threat to the dwindling numbers of penguins.

The African penguin has recently been reclassified as an endangered species due to its declining population across South Africa.

There have also been penguin chick deaths on St. Croix Island nearby Port Elizabeth where the largest breeding colony of African penguins in South Africa – about 3 000 breeding pairs – resides.

There has not yet been official count of the number of dead penguin chicks on St. Croix due to the rough seas which have made it almost impossible to access the island at present.

Park rangers hope to be able to reach St. Croix Island by the end of the week to take stock of the situation.

Meanwhile, rangers stationed on Bird Island are trying to assist the remaining penguin chicks with all possible measures including providing temporary shelters made from materials available on the island. The rangers are also attempting to drain penguin nests which have filled up with water after about 20mm of rain was received on the island.

Although the Addo Elephant National Park’s policy on management of wildlife is usually one of minimum interference in the natural order, special interventions are made with endangered species such as penguins.

Issued by:
South African National Parks

Enquiries:
Megan Taplin, Regional Communications Manager, Addo Elephant, Camdeboo, Karoo, Mountain Zebra National Parks, tel: (042) 233-8609, cell: 083 650 8649, e-mail: meganb@sanparks.org

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