African Penguin foraging behavior study commences at Boulders Penguin Colony

African Penguin foraging behavior study commences at Boulders Penguin Colony

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) and the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology from the University of Cape Town will lead the African Penguin movement ecology research project in collaboration with South African National Parks – Cape Research Centre, set to commence in the last week of May 2019. The objective of the project is to study the foraging behaviour of the endangered species along the False Bay coast to learn more to protect the African Penguin.

According to Dr Alison Kock, Marine Biologist at the Cape Research Centre, 30 penguins will be tagged with batches of six birds per sampling period for a maximum of two days. Adult penguins will be fitted with electronic loggers that record their Global Positioning System (GPS) locations, dive depths and video footage of their behaviour at sea. GPS tracking of African penguins was last done at Boulders in early 2000, since then, penguins at all other main breeding colonies in South Africa and Namibia have been tracked using these devices.

“The current study will provide insights to compare to the earlier study in False Bay and will close the gap in knowledge on the foraging behaviour of African penguins all along our coast, as False Bay is an important habitat and a key area to protect the species,” says Dr Katta Ludynia, Research Manager at SANCCOB. The project will take place over the African Penguin breeding season from May to September 2019 and will start at Boulders Penguin Colony in Simon’s Town, Cape Town.

In addition, a small sample of birds will be marked with a non-permanent pink dye to monitor their nest attendance times and choose birds to monitor that are going to the sea the following day. Kock adds that African penguins have dramatically declined over the last century with only an estimated 23,000 breeding pairs remaining in the wild. Kock says, “The findings of this research project will assist the scientists to better understand the types of fish the African Penguins eat in order to help manage fish stocks more sustainably; determine their hunting areas that can be used to motivate for the extensions of Marine Protected Areas; and knowing where they go can help limit threats to these areas, e.g. pollution.”