African Penguin Awareness Day: How you can help save SA's endangered penguins

2017-10-06 12:20 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - The African penguin, South Africa’s only penguin species, is endangered. 

From a population of over a million in the 1920s to only 18 000 breeding pairs left - and 90 birds lost per week over the past thirty years - the African penguin could be extinct in the wild by 2030, says The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) based in Gansbaai.

Imagine visiting Boulder's Beach and not having the joy of swimming with these birds?

ALSO SEE: Support SA's penguin protection at the Simon's Town 2017 Penguin Festival

According to The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, "historical factors of guano scraping for agricultural fertiliser" destroyed the African Penguins' breeding habitat leading to predation during the fledgling stage.

In addition to this, more than "13 million eggs were harvested as a delicacy causing the initial crash in numbers", and now the penguins face predation by gulls, seal and sharks; oiling; marine pollution; and a lack of fish with overfishing in their hunting grounds.

"This devastating loss reminds us of the fragility of our environment," says the Santuary, which was opened in 2015 by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

Rehabilitation centre

The marine bird rehabilitation centre has a fully equipped lab and a vet on standby to immediately treat birds, thereby increasing their survival rate.

"We are also able to release the birds back on Dyer Island," says the Sanctuary, adding that this was once a thriving colony at 25 000 breeding pairs in the 70s but now there are less than 1500 pairs left.

"We provide temporary rehabilitative care to diseased, displaced, injured, oiled and abandoned marine birds with special focus on the endangered African Penguin," says the Sanctuary which also plays a role in seabird education.

"Through continued research, education and awareness programmes, we aim to mitigate human impacts on our colonies."

Check this out to learn more about what the Sanctuary does, together with its sister organisations:

African Penguin Awareness Day

With African Penguin Awareness Day taking place on Saturday, 7 October, there's no better time than now to play a role in making a difference to the existence of this precious species which forms an important part of South Africa's natural heritage.

This is what you can do:

Visit the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary

Entrance to the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary in Gansbaai is free and donations are welcomed. You can also volunteer your time to help with one of their many initiatives. "Visits, donations and time is invaluable to the successful operation of the APSS and in turn the conservation of the African penguin," says the Sanctuary.

You can also donate old towels and newspapers, as well as make cash donations, own a penguin home for R500 or contribute to The Fishy Fund, among other donations. Click here for more information or contact

APSS is open daily from 9:00 to 16:00, with a public feeding time at 15:00. There's also a coffee and curio shop on site for visitors.

Feeding penguins is tricky! I've had such a fun week volunteering with @marinedynamics!

A post shared by Sarah Williams???? (@desertpaddleboards) on

Waddle for African Penguin Awareness Day

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in Port Elizabeth will celebrate African Penguin Awareness Day on Saturday with a 3km awareness waddle from their premises to Something Good.

Funds raised will contribute to SANCCOB’s continued work to rescue, rehabilitate and release seabirds back into the wild.

The day will kick off with the feeding of SANCCOB’s homepen residents at 10:00, followed by an educational talk on The Plight of the African Penguin. The awareness waddle will start at 11:00.

General admission is R30 for adults, R20 for children under the age of 12, and free for pensioners and children under five. Read more here.

Simon's Town 2017 Penguin Festival

The 15th annual Penguin Festival is taking place in Simon’s town on Saturday. The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in collaboration with SANParks will host the event to celebrate African Penguin Awareness Day.

SEE: Support SA's penguin protection at the Simon's Town 2017 Penguin Festival

Penguin release takes place at Seaforth Beach at 10:00, followed by the Festival at Simon’s Town Navy Sports Field at 11:00. Entrance is free, but it will cost R50 to enter the Kids zone. Read more here.

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