The Rapidly Declining Penguin Population In South Africa Is Causing A Flap

The habitats of the drastically declining African Penguin population is being hit by rising tides caused by climate change

International Penguin Awareness Day was marked on Saturday, giving southern Africa a chance to focus on why the colonies of the bird are decreasing.

Experts said South Africa has around 16,500 breeding pairs of this endangered bird, compared with nearly 20,000 pairs in 2015.

Boulders Beach in Simon's Town is named after the gigantic granite outcrops or Boulders on its shore.

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African penguins gather at the end of the afternoon at Boulders Beach. Image: Getty Images

It's also home to one of the 28 African Penguin habitats endemic to the Southern African coast, which are found only in South Africa and Namibia.

This colony in Simon's Town is the only place in the world where people can swim freely with these endangered wild birds. However, their survival is under threat, because there's just not enough fish in the sea.

"From research that has been done, the African Penguin has to swim far distances to find their food, where in the past, this wasn't the case.

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Image: Getty

We suspect that this could be from commercial trawling or over-exploitation of the food sources of the African Penguin," said Faroeshka Rodgers, section ranger of Simon's Town.

Rising seas, as a result of global warming, has led to habitat destruction and a shortage of breeding spaces for these penguins.

At Boulders Beach, they are encouraged to use artificial nest boxes to increase their chances of breeding success.

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The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds released 84 African Penguins back into the wild after they were treated for oil pollution caught in Namibia. Image: Getty

In addition, this penguin colony which is just about an hour's drive from Cape Town, attracts nearly a million visitors every year.

Tourists from around the world flock here to see the vulnerable African Penguin in its natural habitat.

"It's really amazing to see them here. I didn't think I'd get as close as I have. I really think it's really important that we do everything that we can to preserve these wonderful animals," said a tourist.

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The vulnerable species live in a penguin colony in False Bay that is part of Table Mountain National Park. Image: Getty

Faroeshka Rodgers believed they have responsibilities to protect penguins here.

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"This DOES give us sleepless nights, thinking of ways of how we can stabilize the population and increase their numbers, so that our kids and our children's kids can have the opportunity to enjoy this area while being able to see the African penguin in the wild. Not in a zoo or in a museum," she added.