Monitoring penguin predators

The ambitious plan to establish new African Penguin colonies requires a lot of planning to ensure that we have the best chance of success. One component of the planning is monitoring the chosen site to see what predators are found there that might prey on the penguins. This will enable us to tailor the predator deterring measures (such as a predator proof fence or scent deterrents) to protect the penguins as best as possible. In 2016, I ran a successful crowd funding campaign through the science fundraising site Experiment and managed to raise $5400! Many thanks to all those who donated.

We needed the funds to buy camera traps to put up at the site to monitor the animals there. In November 2016, I went to the candidate site in Plettenberg Bay to set them up, with the help of the local rangers and local scientist and artist Chrissie Cloete (who has also been designing some of the Bird of the Year materials for BirdLife South Africa).

The cameras are motion triggered and use an infrared flash, so as not to disturb the animals at night. We have now amassed hundreds of photos, although quite a number are wind-triggered images of bushes moving! We've caught 14 species on camera so far. Four of these species are potentially of concern for penguins or their chicks and eggs- caracal, grey mongoose, Cape genet and honey badger.

We have also caught eight bird species on camera and it is the birds that have proved some of the most engaging. My favourite is the pair of Water Thick-knees that seem to have a nest near one of the cameras and paraded up and down in front of it over several days!

Many thanks to the Nature's Valley Trust, BirdLife Plettenberg Bay, CapeNature and Chrissie and Daniel Cloete for their help with this project!

Frogging, 'herping' and rock-flipping in Wakkerstr...
On the Road with Ross


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