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Media Release: Bird Island Penguin juveniles ferried to safety

Date: 2011-05-17

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Ninety-four juvenile African penguins are being ferried off Bird Island, which is part of Addo Elephant National Park, today to ensure their survival after their condition deteriorated.

The precautionary rescue operation began on Sunday 15 May when researchers and South African National Parks (SANParks) rangers identified that a number of penguin juveniles were underweight and in poor condition and therefore in need of rehabilitation in order to ensure their survival.

The first group of 45 juveniles was taken off Bird Island by boat on Sunday and transported to Penguins Eastern Cape in Cape St Francis where their rehabilitation process has commenced.

The penguins will be kept at the rehabilitation centre until their condition has improved sufficiently so that they are able to survive without parental care. The penguins will then be transported back to Bird Island and released again.

Meanwhile, SANParks rangers have been packing sand and other material onto flooded nesting areas to improve conditions for penguin chicks and juveniles on the island. In addition, extra artificial nesting burrows have been placed on the island to provide more shelter for breeding penguins and their chicks.

An unusual amount of rain for the time of year has been experienced in the area, leading to nest areas remaining muddy or underwater. The flat topography of Bird Island and decrease of plant cover due to previous dry conditions also contributed to this situation.

In recent years, the conservation efforts around the African penguin have become more intense. In 2010, the status of the African penguin was shifted from vulnerable to endangered following a decline in their numbers.

SANParks has responded to the crisis by increasing the interventions deployed to conserve penguins. Artificial nests have been set-up on the island to provide shelter – from both hot and cold, wet weather – to breeding penguins and their vulnerable chicks. Various designs, ranging from the sophisticated to the simple have been tested out, with varying results.

There are currently about 2 300 breeding pairs of penguins on Bird Island and another 8 500 breeding pairs on St. Croix Island which also forms part of Addo Elephant National Park.

Issued by:       
South African National Parks           

Enquiries:      
Megan Taplin: Regional Marketing & Communications Manager, Addo Elephant * Camdeboo * Karoo * Mountain Zebra National Parks, Tel: 083 650 8649 or (042) 233 8609, E-mail: megan.taplin@sanparks.org

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