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Imagine a world without African Penguins.


At their current rate of population decrease, conservationists predict that this special bird will be extinct in the wild by 2035.


Unless we take action now…


BirdLife South Africa, in collaboration with other committed conservation organisations, is working tirelessly to reverse the decline of African Penguins.


Keep scrolling to see some of the work we are doing:

Reducing resource competition

African Penguins are highly dependent on the availability of sardine and anchovy (collectively known as small pelagic fish). The abundance and distribution of these fish have changed in recent years, making it more difficult for penguins to find food. They also face competition with the commercial small pelagic fishery. Between 2008 and 2021, an experiment was conducted to investigate whether banning fishing for sardine and anchovy within 20 km of certain breeding colonies benefitted penguins. BirdLife South Africa has been extensively involved, along with many other partners, in collecting and analysing the data and advocating for long-term closures. The Minister for the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) announced closures around 6 important colonies in 2023, following recommendations from a comprehensive review of the science by an expert international panel. However, BirdLife South Africa believes that the closures that were implemented are not based on key recommendations from the panel as to how the closures should be delineated. We have therefore, together with SANCCOB, launched review proceedings against the office of the Minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, in the interests of rectifying this for the protection of the Endangered African Penguin. To read the full story, click here.

Identifying important foraging areas

After they have finished breeding, African Penguins need to regain body condition so that they can survive the moulting period. This is a time when they replace all their feathers at once and cannot go to sea to feed, during which time they can lose up to half their body weight! After moulting, they also need to regain weight rapidly to survive. By fitting miniature satellite tracking devices to the penguins after breeding and after moulting, we have identified important foraging areas during these crucial periods.

We have submitted spatial layers of the birds’ distributions to Marine Spatial Planning and Ecosystem-based approach to Fisheries Management initiatives in South Africa to have these important areas incorporated into the birds’ management and conservation strategies.

Automated Penguin Monitoring Systems

African Penguins spend a considerable amount of time at sea in search of fish. If conditions are good these birds can gain over a third of their average body mass in one day, but if conditions are poor, they can lose this weight; if this happens repeatedly, they may abandon their breeding effort. Automated Penguin Monitoring Systems (APMSs) include weighbridges and electronic tag readers that can transmit real-time data on the condition of individual penguins as they depart from and return to their colonies. Working with SANCCOB and Nelson Mandela University, we have deployed APMSs at four different colonies in South Africa (Stony Point in Betty’s Bay, Bird Island in Algoa Bay, Robben Island on the west coast, and Dyer Island on the south coast). We are currently calibrating these tools to inform resource and maritime management policies to mitigate at-sea threats to African Penguins.

Creating new penguin colonies

BirdLife South Africa is working with CapeNature and SANCCOB to re-establish an African Penguin breeding colony at the De Hoop Nature Reserve. The De Hoop Nature Reserve is in an area of good prey availability and was the site of a previous penguin colony. Since 2018, we have constructed a predator-proof fence, installed penguin decoys and a speaker playing penguin calls to make it look like there is already an established colony there. In 2021, we started releasing hand-reared juvenile penguins at the site, and since then, we have released over 214 penguins. The juvenile penguins released will spend 3-6 years at sea and hopefully return when they are ready to breed. In June 2022, adult penguins arrived spontaneously and breeding occurred for the first time in 15 years, with one pair breeding. Four pairs bred in 2023, raising six chicks between them! Read more

Mitigating maritime threats

There is an accelerating demand for ocean space and resource use, to grow the economic benefits provided by the ocean. This expansion needs to be conducted in an environmentally sound manner that doesn’t put undue pressure on threatened species and ecosystems. BirdLife South Africa is working on several fronts to monitor and help mitigate these pressures. In Algoa Bay, we are particularly concerned about ship-to-ship bunkering, i.e. the transfer of fuel between vessels outside harbours, which has resulted in several oil spills and the exponential increase in shipping traffic in recent years and the associated heightened levels of marine noise. We are part of a study looking at marine noise and its potential link to the decrease in penguin numbers at St Croix Island. More broadly, we monitor development applications to ensure their impact on African Penguins (and other seabirds) is avoided or minimised.


You can be part of the solution…

Will you consider a donation to change the course of history for African Penguins?

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BirdLife South Africa would like to acknowledge our partners and collaborators:

Our work to conserve the African Penguin would not be possible without the passion, commitment and generosity of our donors:

Stewart Horejsi

Christian Masser

Rand Barbet Bird Club

Boetie & Caroline van Zyl

David & Jen Lewis

Frank and Gail Reuvers

Willene van der Merwe

Rangaswamy Vasudevan

Roeloff Botha

Want to find out more, or just talk penguins?

Drop us a line at