African penguins at Nausicaá
African penguins at Nausicaá
The African penguin Spheniscus demersus catches the eye of visitors to the Eye of the Climate exhibition. This curious and mischievous penguin, with a slightly clumsy walk on land becomes agile and fast once in the water. The star of the group is called Opale. She is lively and curious and easily approaches visitors, making almost immediate contact.
Penguins at Nausicaá since 2006
Nausicaá has been showing penguins to the public since 2006. The colony currently consists of 22 adult penguins all born in European parks and aquariums. Their living area has been laid out in accordance with the breeding guide of the European breeding programme, written by veterinarians and specialists. The couples that have formed in the colony were thus able to find space for their intimacy; since their arrival, they have given birth to 18 babies.
Once young penguins have become self-sufficient, they join colonies in other centres to expand the breeding programme. This is how baby penguins born in Nausicaá have founded families in Austria, Italy and Hungary, etc.
Less than 2% of the African penguin population in the wild
The African penguin is a species that lives in South Africa and is a victim of human activities: oil pollution such as oil spills, tourism and associated coastal constructions, accidental catches linked to fishing, and overfishing of fish that the penguins feed on have strongly impacted the penguin population. Predators such as seals, sharks and land animals are also a threat to a species that cannot protect itself and that depends on humans for its conservation.
The population, which numbered one million breeding pairs in the 1930s, has declined to the point where there are only 17,700 breeding pairs in the wild today.
There’s a strong smell here!
Some people may notice a strong smell emanating from their habitat. It is the smell of guano, which is penguin excrement. This smell is also strong in the natural environment. In South Africa, guano has been exploited by man for use as a fertilizer because of its nitrogen content, and this exploitation adds to the reasons for the declining population of these birds.
In Antarctica, traces of guano seen by satellite have pinpointed colonies of emperor penguins that had not previously been counted. Amazing, right?
Nausicaá sponsors the SANCCOB association of volunteers working in South Africa to rescue African penguins and other seabirds. This association takes care of injured animals and in particular, those injured from oil spills. It also rescues and rears the chicks to release them back into the wild after a few months. Raising public awareness and conducting research on diseases and chick growth are also part of SANCCOB’s missions.
Since 2006, through sponsorships and contributions from visitors to Nausicaá, SANCCOB has been able to save several dozen penguins. In September 2017, a member of the team of carers took part in an assignment to return a dozen penguins rescued in this way to their original colony.
Dr Stephen van der Spuy, CEO of SANCCOB testifies:
In a year without an oil spill, SANCCOB cares for about 2,500 seabirds in 3 strategically located centres in Cape Town (Western Cape Province), Cape St Francis and Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape Province). Roughly 1,500 of these birds are African penguins. […] Your support for our rescue work is helping us to fight the decline of this species and prevent the extinction of other species of seabirds. Together, we are working to keep bird numbers stable by maintaining balance in this increasingly fragile ecosystem.
SANCCOB celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. Since its creation, more than 95,000 seabirds have been cared for.