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 Post subject: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:30 am 
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www.news24.com/News24/Technology/News/0,,2-13-1443_2493624,00.html
Penguins suffering exposure to predators and the sun are given new 'houses'.

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:00 am 
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Thank you, Emily!

Quote:
Crisis looms for SA penguins
30/03/2009 08:47 - (SA)


Boulders Beach - Nesting in the sparkling sand, preening on the rocks and darting through the waters, the penguins on the southern tip of Africa are the ultimate crowd-pleaser. But crisis looms.

Short of food, exposed to predators and the African sun, their numbers are plummeting. But salvation may rest in a simple manmade solution - housing for penguins.

Dotting the shore of this penguin colony near the Cape of Good Hope are 200 nesting boxes, each big enough to house a happy family of parents, eggs and chicks.

The experiment has already worked well on a more distant penguin island in South African waters, and wildlife rangers are eagerly watching to see whether the boxes recently installed on Boulders Beach, where tourists can watch the birds up close, will prove equally attractive.

"You look at the penguins and think they have a lovely time in sunny South Africa, but it's a struggle," says Monique Ruthenberg, a ranger with the Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town, where summer temperatures recently hit 40 degrees.

Park authorities installed the boxes - made of a fibreglass mix, shaped like a burrow and dug into the sand to mimic the real nests - at Boulders Beach as part of desperate efforts to protect the dwindling populations of African penguins.

'The species may die out within a decade'

It has been a losing struggle. Numbers of the cute, curious creatures have plummeted from around 3 million in the 1930s to just 120 000 because of overfishing and pollution.

Some experts fear the species will die out in as little as a decade, and are particularly alarmed at the prospect of global warming increasing the number of scorching days, raising water temperatures and altering fish migration patterns.

The Boulders Beach colony has fallen 30% from a peak of 3 900 birds in 2005 to 2 600 and some of the island colonies have suffered calamitous declines of 50%.

The African penguin, also called the jackass because of its bray, is the only one to inhabit the African continent. It has shorter feathers than the Antarctic birds because it doesn't face such cold and is just 50cm tall.

The Boulders Colony began in 1985 when a couple of penguins moved from a nearby island onto the beach in the naval base of Simon's Town, decided they liked it and stayed. So many followed that authorities had to build fences to prevent them invading people's gardens. But the tourists poured in.

Constant risk from pollution

About 600 000 a year now visit Boulders Beach, which boasts that it is the only place in the world where people can swim with penguins.

The real life "Happy Feet" are unfazed by all the attention and, apart from a few who were killed while snoozing under visitors' cars, don't seem to have suffered from their contact with humans.

There is a constant risk from pollution. The last big oil spill was in 2000, when 20 000 penguins were trucked about 756km from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth to allow workers time to clean up oil from a wrecked tanker while the birds swam home.

But even in years with no big accidents, the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds has to rescue and rehabilitate hundreds of birds whose feathers are covered in oil illegally dumped at sea and washed ashore.

The population fall continues, especially on the more remote Dyer Island where numbers have plummeted from 23 000 breeding pairs in the early 1970s to just 1 500 pairs. Penguins normally mate for life.

"It's horrible," Wilfred Chivell, chairman of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, who blames bad fishing management for a dwindling supply of sardines and pilchards, the penguins' main food.

Gulls preying on eggs and chicks

Such is the competition for fish that Ruthenberg says young seals attack penguins to rip the fish from their bellies.

Gulls prey on the eggs and young chicks, often working as a team; the nesting penguins leave their eggs to chase away the invaders, while another gull sneaks in behind, she says.

Eggs lie abandoned in the sand because the parents have taken to the water to escape the heat. Once a nesting pair abandons its eggs, other penguins often follow suit.

So volunteers calling themselves the iKapa Honorary Rangers asked the public to sponsor nesting boxes for $20 each. They initially planned 100 boxes but this was doubled thanks to a $2,000 donation from the Species Survival Plan - a cooperation program linking members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in the US.

The nesting boxes are meant to give the penguins an edge - shelter from the heat and a better defence against egg-stealing gulls - and the 1 000 boxes on the more remote Dyer Island have proven popular, with 80% occupancy.

Now Ruthenberg hopes the Boulders Beach penguins that have lost eggs and chicks will learn the lesson and take to the newly installed boxes in time to lay a second batch before the laying season ends in April.

- AP

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 9:26 pm 
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All I can say is a very big well done to all those who have been involved in setting up these boxes and monitoring the birds, the figures in the above report are quite worrying. Well Done. :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:21 pm 
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Thanks Emily and Jen for bringing this sad story to our attention. Hopefully these new boxes will show an increase in the population of these little cuties!

:clap: :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:06 am 
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A great initiative by the iKapa Honorary Rangers. :clap: It would be so sad to lose these charismatic birds. :(

When my sister and I visit in September we have to call in at the Boulders office to collect the certificates for the nest boxes we sponsored when the appeal was launched. Hopefully they'll be able to tell us what a great success they've been and, as they're all numbered, maybe we'll find out if "ours" have been occupied! 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:56 am 
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Keep us posted on whether your box has new tenants Anita. :thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:59 am 
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I certainly will pass on any information I can get! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:58 am 
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Great Anita! :D

I believe that they are in the process of setting up a webpage where you could track your nestbox online. I'll let you know when I have more details. :wink:

Should anyone be interested in supporting this great initiative: See here.
Saving the Endangered African Penguin at Boulders

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:00 am 
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JenB wrote:
I believe that they are in the process of setting up a webpage where you could track your nestbox online. I'll let you know when I have more details. :wink:

Thanks, Jen that would be great! :thumbs_up:

Sadly I think my second trip to SA in September will be my last for financial reasons, so it would be really good to be able to track the nestboxes.

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:50 am 
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Just got my latest Travel Africa Mag and there is a small section on the birds and their new homes, will try and scan a pic in tommorow if thats alright with JenB.

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:35 am 
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It will be great, thanx Emily! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:16 pm 
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Quote:
HOME SWEET HOME...Endemic to the coastlines of South Africa and Namibia, African penguins have earned a place in the heart of all who have encountered them. However, their population has not fared so well over the past few decades. While declining fish stocks from overfishing was thought to be the main problem, Wilfred Chivell, a passionate marine conservationist, discovered quite by accident that the lack of shelter for penguins was also to blame. Before the extensive mining of guano for use as fertiliser in the 1880s and 1900s, penguins used to burrow into the `white gold’ to make safe havens for nesting. Today, with most of the coastline scraped bare of guano, penguins have tried to breed in the open, leaving their eggs or chicks susceptible to heat stress and the preying appetites of various bird species. The threat of the later has increased along with the rising population of kelp gulls who scavenge from fishing vessels and rubbish dumps on the mainland. The realisation that shelter was critical to the penguin’s survival, led Chivell to design, build and install artificial burrows on Dyer Island. They have quickly proven to be a success, with penguins racing into their new homes just as soon as the volunteers retreat.  A total of 2000 burrows will eventually be placed on the island. The Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT), who build the shelters as part of their Faces of Need project, have no teamed up with SANParks to place the new homes in other areas of need along the coast. Forty-eight nests were recently installed on Bird Island, in Algoa Bay, 53km east of Port Elizabeth, and the first 50 of 100 were placed on Boulders Beach in Cape Town. DICT is also in the middle of a research programme looking at the impact of a temporary fishing closure around one of the breeding colonies along the coast. Hopefully, with safe places for penguins to breed on shore, and richer seas for them to forage in, their long-term survival will be ensured. 
(Courtesy of Travel Africa Mag Spring 2009 Ed 46)

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:17 pm 
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Image

Sorry the pics are not great, my scanner has seen better days.

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:19 pm 
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Image Image

Image
(Penguin with 2 chicks in nestbox 1)

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Last edited by Emily86 on Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Penguin boxes
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:26 pm 
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Extract on the progress of some of the new homes taken from the DICT online blog for 29/03/09.

Nest 1: these two chicks are looking great. In a little while the parents will both leave the nest, as they need to find more food for the bigger, hungry chicks.

Nest 2: R3788 and its partner were both at the nest this week, incubating 2 eggs.

Nest 3: It looks like this pair is only going to lay one egg. One adult incubating 1 egg this week

Nest 4: This adult is still incubating 2 eggs.

Nest 5: I mentioned last week that this pair seemed a bit unsettled. They were not in their nest this week and both eggs look like they've been abandoned. According to field staff that have been watching the nest (it's opposite the kitchen window of the staff house!), there have been some fighting among the penguins outside the nest, so not too sure what's going on there. Today I saw a pair walking in and out of the nest, so we'll see what happens

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