When you first think of Africa, admittedly a penguin (the oceanic, flightless bird commonly associated with the icy plains of the Antarctic) may not be the first thing that springs to mind. However, the African penguin is very much at home right here in Plettenberg Bay.
They are, in fact, a species of penguin endemic to southern Africa and were once one of the most abundant bird species found here. Despite this, population numbers have drastically declined, more than halving in recent years, leaving them listed as endangered and facing an array of threats. Our waters are a natural hunting ground for penguins from Port Elizabeth.
Occasionally we find them suffering from injury, illness or often just sheer exhaustion as they travel to find food. Despite these threats, there is a glimmer of hope for their increased survival with several organisations tirelessly working to prevent their extinction. Thanks to the rehabilitation and hard work from staff at Tenikwa Wildlife Centre in the Crags, stranded penguins are nursed back to health.
At the centre they receive veterinary attention and around the clock care from trained staff members. They are housed in natural enclosures until they are fit enough to be released back into the wild. Nationally scientists and conservationists are working to increase their protection and create new suitable breeding grounds.
Plett is one such site where the development of a breeding colony may occur in future, but for now, all efforts are focused on a colony development at De Hoop, where one historically existed several decades ago. Penguin releases in Plett began in 2017.
A total of 24 penguins have been released from Lookout Beach, selected as a suitable site by scientists from Nature’s Valley Trust and BirdLife South Africa. A very welcome sight for local and visitors. Penguin releases will continue in Plettenberg Bay, visit the Nature’s Valley Trust Facebook page for updates. The latest penguin release took place this past Saturday on Lookout Beach.