A multi-partner research project, SANCCOB collaborates with the University of Pretoria (UP), the University of the Western Cape (UWC), University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Freie Universitaet Berlin (FU Berlin) on a Penguin Health project, funded by the MeerWissen Initiative, African-German Knowledge for Ocean Knowledge. MeerWissen was initiated in 2018 by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and seeks to provide policymakers with the scientific information needed to take profound decisions for the effective management and conservation of Africa’s ocean and coasts.

The Penguin Health project consists of different work areas, and SANCCOB is directly involved in several of these. One key aspect of the project is the Avian Influenza project, linked to SANCCOB’s disease surveillance work. Both SANCCOB’s veterinary and research teams have been extensively involved in sampling for the study, including seabird colonies in South Africa and Namibia, in addition to the SANCCOB seabird hospitals. Led by a team of researchers at the University of the Western Cape, SANCCOB has collected samples for a study on the prevalence of toxins in penguins from various colonies to understand the different exposure, depending on the vicinity to human activities, such as cities and ports.

In order to be able to monitor African penguins and get more accurate numbers of breeding pairs but at the same time reducing the human disturbance caused by frequent or intense colony visits, SANCCOB is working together with a team from UP on a project to use drones to count African penguins. The MeerWissen project builds on the experience of colleagues from CapeNature, BirdLife South Africa and SANParks.

As part of the MeerWissen project, a stakeholder survey on African penguin conservation has been conducted by a student from the University of Pretoria; SANCCOB is co-supervising this study. Different groups, ranging from researchers who are directly working with African penguins to local residents and fisherman have been interviewed to gain an understanding of their current knowledge and their vision for African penguin conservation.