Penguin population on a sharp decline

During the past few weeks four injured and malnourished African Penguins were rescued in the area of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. They are recovering in the care of the Seabird and Penguin Rehabilitation Centre in Swakopmund.
Since 1997, Dr Sandra Dantu and Mark Boorman have been taking care of injured penguins, found by the public along the central coast – but this has been the quietest year so far with the least number of penguins they have taken in for care.
Under normal circumstances one would argue this is a good sign, but just the opposite is true. Finding fewer penguins each year that need care simply means there are less penguins on our coastline.
“It is a big concern”, explained Dr Dantu to namib times. The population of the Africa penguin along the Namibian coast is on a sharp decline. Once abundant, the species is facing extinction. The penguin is listed as endangered on the IUCN. The population, which breeds in Namibia and South Africa, has declined by 95% since pre-industrial times.
The cause? This can be attributed to large-scale guano mining on the islands they breed on located in the vicinity of Lüderitz as well as overfishing of their main food source: pilchards and earlier on also anchovy.
Three of the penguins currently recovering at the center are very young and visibly underfed. One was injured and another was found covered in oil at Walvis Bay.
One penguin’s feathers are regrowing. According to Dr. Dantu penguins shed their feathers once a year. They lose all their feathers at once and it takes about three weeks for these to regrow. During this time, they cannot go back into the water and are therefore especially vulnerable, especially to predators like jackals. “The penguin population seemed to be recovering a few years ago, but it is crashing. Food is a big problem”, said Dr. Dantu.
Should residents see an injured penguin on the beach, that cannot go into the water, they should phone the SPCA, a vet or the Namibia Dolphin Project, who are in regular contact with the center.

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