Africa’s sole penguin population is on the brink of extinction. And that despite sustained efforts to save the adorable fellows and their habitat.
According to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, the penguin population nested around Cape Town has declined by an alarming 90 percent since the number recorded in 2004.
What caused this decline is still a mystery to scientists scrambling to save the last remaining of them and perhaps help to boost the numbers for future generations.
Africa’s sole penguin species, also known as the jackass penguin or the black-footed penguin has been declared an endangered species in 2010 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
What was once known as the stronghold of the jackass penguins, the west coast of the African continent, is now only a desolate place for the few remaining specimens still flapping around the beaches.
In an attempt to save the African penguin, the Department of Environmental Affairs created a task team – the Island Closures Task Team to draft and implement population management actions over seven years ago.
One of the main reasons thought to have led to the rapid decimation of the African penguin population was the overfishing of the penguins’ food, namely anchovies and sardines. As such, the Task Team decided to ban fishing in four fishing grounds, thought key to the survival of the black-footed penguins.
However, this plan has led to little success, the African penguin population continuing to drop at an alarming rate. Perhaps it is because the fish population have moved in farther waters and swimming all the way to get nourishment leaves the adults tired and puts them in greater danger from other predators.
Yet, nothing is certain. Climate change, fish populations migrating further from the jackass penguin colonies or overfishing and even natural fluctuations could all be key factors playing a role in the decline.
How these are managed is more important. Soon, the African penguins may be fully extinct is efforts aren’t stepped up a notch to find the determining causes and ways to manage risks.
South Africa boasted 1 million jackass penguins in the 1930s. Many other African penguin colonies existed along the African west coast. Nowadays, barely 100,000 individuals remain on the continent, in South Africa and Namibia.
Nonetheless, the African penguin is not the only species that is severely endangered. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared the yellow-eyed penguin, as well as the erect-crested penguins as endangered species. In the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, the northern rockhopper are facing the same imminent peril.
The Galapagos penguin is also an endangered species. Of 17 penguin species worldwide, the African penguin, as well as the others represent a worrying percentage of endangered species.
Photo Credits: grootbos.com
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