The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus, also known as the Jackass Penguin) is endemic to Southern Africa. They breed on twenty four islands and at three mainland sites along the coasts of South Africa and Namibia with 90% of the population being found in South Africa. The main breeding season is from March to May, with each female laying 1-2 eggs. Male and female pairs often remain together for a a number of years and return annually to the same nest site.
Penguin populations have declined dramatically from 1.5million adults in the 1930s to 160 000 in in the 1990s. Since the late 1970s, the colony on Dyer Island has dropped from 70 000 to only 2000 breeding pairs in 2005. This extreme drop is mainly due to egg exploitation and guano collection pre-1983. Reduced availability of food, seal predation, an increase in gull numbers and chronic oil pollution have also contributed largely. The collection of guano has had a catastrophic effect on the penguins’ breeding habits. The age old nesting method involves burrowing into the guano to protect eggs and fledglings from sea-gull predation. When the majority of the guano is removed by man to be used as fertiliser, the penguins are forced to nest on open terrain which offers little or no protection from the Kelp Gulls, and causes nest abandonment by adults due to the higher temperatures that they experience from being in direct sunlight.
Dyer Island Cruises, in partnership with Cape Nature Conservation, initiated the Faces of Need Project in order to address this crisis. Artificial penguin nests are made out of fiberglass to mimic the guano burrows. These hollows provide shelter from the sun, protection from the gulls and thus vastly improve the penguins breeding success.
The Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) was established for the conservation, rehabilitation and protection of the natural environment on Dyer Island and its surrounds. This includes fauna, flora and the biosphere, as well as implementation of environmental education and awareness. The trust uses funds raised and donated for these conservation purposes and aims to reverse the African Penguins population decline over the next four years by putting 2000 nest boxes on the island. The Grootbos Foundation wholeheartedly collaborates with Faces of Need and DICT through sponsorship and the promotion of the Trust and sales of penguin nests.
You can get involved by sponsoring a penguin nest for R400. This includes construction of the box, placement on Dyer Island, monitoring and penguin research. You will also be acknowledged with your name on our website, as well as on the supporters board at the Kleinbaai Harbour. Please visit www.dict.org.za for more information and donation details.