Stony Point Nature Reserve is situated in the coastal town of Betty’s Bay in the Overberg and lies on an old whaling station site. During 2021 it was home to approximately 1,600 breeding pairs of African penguins. Also present in the colony are four species of cormorant; the Crowned cormorant (Least Concern), Cape cormorant (Endangered), White-breasted cormorant (Least concern), and Bank cormorant (Endangered), all of which breed on the outer rocks. The nature reserve is protected environmentally by the South African government and is managed by CapeNature. It falls within the 21 km Betty’s Bay MPA (3 km long, extending 3.6 km out to sea), and forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. The public can view the seabirds up close, via a boardwalk through the colony.
Threats to seabirds breeding at this colony include the dramatic decrease in the pelagic fish stocks and competition with commercial fisheries, predation by land-based predators such as mongoose, caracal and leopard, as well as dogs and cats, human-induced disturbance and activity, extreme weather events (heavy rains and flooding), and chronic pollution by crude oil or other pollutants. SANCCOB identified the importance of a full-time Penguin and Seabird Ranger at Stony Point due to the frequency of African penguin chick abandonment incidents, both during extreme weather events and when birds start moulting while still rearing chicks.
Gavin Petersen has been working as a Penguin and Seabird Ranger at the Stony Point colony since 2019, in collaboration with CapeNature. He was awarded the very honourable BirdLife South Africa Owl award in 2021 due to his “inspiring example of how dedicated field rangers can promote the conservation of endangered seabirds”. In July 2021, he was instrumental in removing 69 African penguin chicks and 36 eggs from the colony after severe flooding of the nests during bad winter weather.
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As an ongoing initiative, the Chick Bolstering Project has several fundable components, including costs associated with rescuing and rearing chicks during periods of mass abandonment.