SANParks marks International Penguin Awareness Day during National Marine Week and highlights the vulnerability of the A

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SANParks marks International Penguin Awareness Day during National Marine Week and highlights the vulnerability of the A

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Media Release: SANParks marks International Penguin Awareness Day during National Marine Week and highlights the vulnerability of the African Penguin

12 October 2018

South African National Parks (SANParks) has joined the world in celebrating the International African Penguin Awareness Day and National Marine Week with the theme “Nature Knows No Bounds”, at the Boulders section Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).

International African Penguin Awareness Day celebrated on 13 October annually aims to educate and inform the public of the plight of the African Penguin. African penguins are currently regarded as vulnerable to extinction and classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The main reason for the ongoing decrease of African Penguins in South Africa is a scarcity of prey around its main breeding localities along the west coast, which has led to high mortality rates of birds in this region.

TMNP Boulders Beach is home to one of only two land-based colonies in South Africa and as such is vitally important to the survival of the African Penguin. According to Janine Raftopoulos, SANParks Head of Communication, “SANParks currently manages approximately 60% of the African penguin population (approximately 10 000 breeding pairs in Addo, 850 breeding pairs in Boulders/ Simonstown, 170 pairs West Coast National Park). Colony-specific management plays a very important role in ensuring the existing habitats are kept attractive, healthy and safe for the penguins.”

Several management actions have been implemented to conserve the African penguins including formal protection of breeding colonies by converting areas with known breeding sites into nature reserves and national parks, prohibiting the collection of guano and eggs, establishing marine protected areas where fishing is prohibited, ongoing research to monitor population trends in relation to prey availability and disease outbreaks, active management of population sizes of predators, artificial care of abandoned chicks, providing artificial nests and rehabilitating sick birds.

Together with International African Penguin Awareness Day, National Marine Week is observed annually during the second week of October (10 – 15 October 2018) and intends to highlight the importance of oceans and the role they play in the life of all South Africans as well as create awareness about marine pollution, particularly plastics and micro-plastics, in the ocean and coastal ecosystems. The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Thomson opened the annual National Marine Week, on 9 October 2018, in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

“As the leading conservation agency in the country, National Marine Week is one of the important events on the tourism calendar,” said Raftopoulos. “The Week provides a unique opportunity for people around the world, particularly those who reside adjacent to coastal areas to engage on conservation and tourism matters,” she continued.

SANParks manages four of South Africa’s 23 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), namely West Coast National Park MPA, Table Mountain National Park MPA, Garden Route National Park Tstitsikamma Section MPA and Bird Island MPA which are areas of cultural significance, income generation, fisheries management, developmental research and low impact ecotourism and recreational activities. “These are clearly defined geographical spaces which are managed through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long‐term conservation of nature along with associated ecosystem services and whilst upholding our cultural values.

Most of South Africa’s marine resources are over-exploited where several species are threatened and almost half of marine and coastal habitat types are threatened. “Poaching, pollution, habitat destruction, climate change (sea level rise, ocean acidification, and changes in water temperature) are additional challenges encountered by SANParks,” Raftopoulos continued.

”We urge the public to join SANParks in celebrating this week and day to help raise awareness about the African Penguin and Marine areas in South Africa. For those people who would like to do more, you can join in beach clean-ups to keep the penguin habitats and oceans clean, you can choose only sustainable seafood whenever dining or buying fish and you can support your local rehabilitation centres (SANCCOB, APSS, SAMREC),” concluded Raftopoulos.

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An African Penguin at Boulders Beach in Table Mountain National Park

Issued by:
South African National Parks Corporate Communications

Media Enquiries:
Janine Raftopoulos
SANParks Head of Communications
Tel: 012 426 5170, Cell: 071 444 3121
Email: [email protected]

Reynold Thakhuli
SANParks General Manager: Media, PR & Stakeholder Relations
Tel: 012 426 5203; Cell: 073 373 4999
Email: [email protected]
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