A highly-anticipated African Penguin movement ecology research project will begin on the last week of May at the Boulders Penguin Colony in Simonstown. The project will take place over the penguins’ breeding season from May to September 2019.
“The study is being led by the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology from the University of Cape Town and SANCCOB. The partnership will see a collaboration between these two organisations and South African National Parks – Cape Research Centre to conduct the study,” says Dr Alison Kock, a marine biologist from the Cape Research Centre.
30 penguins will be tagged over the course of the breeding season, with batches of six birds per sampling period for a maximum of 2 days. Adult penguins will be fitted with electronic loggers that record their Global Positioning System (GPS) locations and dive depths as well as video footage of their behaviour at sea. These devices will be attached to their lower backs with waterproof tape.
During the study, a small sample of birds will also be marked with a non-permanent pink dye so their nest attendance times can be monitored, and for the researchers to choose the birds that will go to the sea the following day.
Kock goes on to state that African Penguins have dramatically declined over the last century with only an estimated 23 000 breeding pairs remaining in the wild. “The findings of this research project will assist the scientists to better understand the types of fish the African Penguins eat in order to help manage fish stocks more sustainably; determine their hunting areas that can be used to motivate for the extensions of Marine Protected Areas; and knowing where they go can help limit threats to these areas, e.g. pollution.”