Researchers conduct GPS tracking study at Simon’s Town Penguin Colony

In collaboration with Dr Alistair McInnes, Tegan Carpenter-Kling (BirdLife South Africa) and Dr Alison Kock (SANParks), SANCCOB continued a very exciting study in Simon’s Town in August to understand which areas penguins are using for feeding during the chick rearing period. Birds from the other main breeding colonies had been tracked in the last 16 years, but less was known about foraging in Simon’s Town.

In August, a total of 9 breeding penguins were fitted with data loggers that recorded their GPS locations and dive depths. The birds that were studied foraged closer to Simon’s Town and travelled along the False Bay coast (several towards Muizenberg). The 14 birds that were studied in 2019 also stayed in False Bay but were travelling further along the False Bay coast (towards Gordon’s Bay) than the birds studied this year. This information is crucial for motivating the authorities to extend our Marine Protected Areas, so that the feeding areas of penguins can be protected.

SANCCOB’s Research Manager, Dr Katta Ludynia, says, “The African penguins in Simon’s Town appear in very good condition. The penguins seem to have better fish availability this year, there seems to be more anchovy in the bay which may be related to fish not being disturbed by ship traffic out of the Simon’s Town harbour during South Africa’s lockdown. Penguins are currently also not disturbed by visitors to the Boulders colony.”

Many penguins are still breeding, with some of them on their second clutch. Ludynia: “That means these penguins have already successfully raised one or two chicks and have decided to just try again, probably because of the abundance of anchovies.”

The Simon’s Town Penguin Colony is one of few breeding colonies for African penguins with ‘a relatively stable number of African penguins’. The colony has a total of 1,062 breeding pairs of African penguins (SANParks & City of Cape Town; 2020).