A well-anticipated research project identified as the African Penguin movement ecology research will start at Boulders Penguin Colony in Simonstown from the last week of May. The project will take place over the African Penguin 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 – Marine Biologist: Cape Research Centre.
30 penguins will be tagged over the breeding season, with batches of six birds per sampling period for the 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.
GPS tracking of African penguins was last done at Boulders in early 2000, since then, penguins at all main breeding colonies in South Africa and Namibia have been tracked using these devices. “The current study will be a great comparison to the earlier study in False Bay and will close the gap in knowledge on the foraging behaviour of African penguins all along our coast, as False Bay is important habitat and a key area to protect the species,” says Dr Katta Ludynia, Research Manager at SANCCOB.
Another method that will be used during the study is a small sample of birds that will be marked with a non-permanent pink dye so that their nest attendance times can be monitored, as well as to choose birds that are going 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.”