Shell NIMPA Progress stories

19 Mar 2015 | News

This work is carried out as part of a collaboration between the MFMR, NNF (African Penguin Project & Namibian Dolphin Project) and UCT to support the support the Namibian Marine Islands Protected Area, with financial assistance from Shell Namibia Upstream B.V.

 Saving “Pecten”

While monitoring Heaviside’s dolphins from the shore in Shearwater Bay on 16 January 2015 Dr Jean-Paul Roux spotted a young African penguin standing on the beach, looking rather forlorn. Jean-Paul drove back to Lüderitz to fetch me and a custom-made penguin travel box; I caught the penguin that offered no resistance, and took it to the seabird rehabilitation facility in Lüderitz. The penguin had recently fledged, probably from nearby Halifax Island, and clearly had not understood that its brief after leaving its nest was to spend about a year at sea, learning how to fish and fend for itself. Instead it had opted for the foolish plan to stand on the beach, where it was bound to become a tasty meal for a jackal or hyena.

The penguin, named “Pecten” was underweight at 2.0 kg but otherwise in fairly good condition. Pecten turned out to be an easy patient, eagerly ate the sardines it was fed and enthusiastically practiced swimming and diving in the big pool in his pen. Two weeks later Pecten weighed in at a respectable 2.6 kg and was ready to be released. Pecten was given a lift by boat to Mercury Island, about 100 km north of Lüderitz, where permanent staff from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources could monitor whether Pecten would leave the island successfully. And Pecten did. We wish him safe travels and a long and successful life in the wild.

Where do our penguins find their food? Learning about the foraging ecology of African penguins using GPS data logger technology

My colleague Dr Katrin (Katta) Ludynia from the University of Cape Town and I are about to start our annual field season. We are a tried and trusted team and have worked together for a decade. Our mission? To investigate the foraging ecology of African penguins at Halifax Island. In order to gain important insights on penguin foraging areas, habitats, ranges and behavior which are vital for guiding conservation management of this endangered species, we deploy GPS data loggers on breeding penguins. These small devices are carried by a penguin like a little backpack and regularly record the position of a penguin as well as other information such as time, dive depth and water temperature. After two or three days, we remove the logger, download the information and find the next suitable candidate to carry one of our precious loggers.

Katta arrived last night and we have prepared and packed our equipment. We are ready for action…well, almost. It has been blowing a gale that is typical for this area, and now we patiently wait for the wind to abate so we can safely get to Halifax Island. As soon as it does, we hop on our paddle skis and head to the island. Watch this space…