Plettenberg Bay is home to many marine wonders: visiting Southern Right and Humpback whales, endemic shysharks that are found nowhere else in the world, dolphins, coastal birds, sharks and an enormous seal colony on Robberg.
But one animal isn’t often associated with Plettenberg Bay, even though they do naturally occur in our area: the African Jackass Penguin. Plettenberg Bay is within the natural range of this species, but there are no colonies located here.
Local wildlife rehabiliatation centre, Tenikwa, has been rehabilitating penguins for over a decade. When an injured or sick bird is found along our coastline, Tenikwa is on hand to treat them, shelter them and, when they are ready, release them back into the wild. Since 2009, 512 penguins have been admitted to Tenikwa.
In 2017, in collaboration with Nature’s Valley Trust and Birdlife South Africa, Tenikwa decided to arrange local releases from Plettenberg Bay. BirdlifeSA currently has an African Penguin project looking into the feasibility of establishing/re-establishing penguin colonies along the Western Cape coastline, and this forms part of the objectives of the National Biodiversity Management Plan(BMP) for African Penguins to curb and reverse the drastic decline of the African Penguin population over the last decade.
To date, there have been four penguin releases, with another scheduled for 21st September 2018 on Lookout Beach. The releases are open to the public and draw a large crowd as these black-and-white birds waddle their way back to the waves. One of the releases was even featured on National Geographic online. The opportunity to take part in the release is Tenikwa’s way of thanking the Plett community for their involvement in the conservation of the endearing and endangered African Penguin.
You can watch the National Geographic video [here].
A lot of effort and expense goes into the preparing of each penguin for release, but with a sharp decline of more than 70% in the last 5 years, every penguin that can be treated and returned to the ocean will make a direct contribution towards the sustainability of the species and we do hope that BirdlifeSA’s plan for a penguin colony near Plettenberg Bay will become a reality in the years to come!