Ships’ Risky Fuel Transfers Are Threatening African Penguins

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An oiled penguin in the aftermath of a spill in the waters of Algoa Bay. Lloyd Edwards

By The Conversation

The African Penguin is in serious trouble. Its population has fallen by more than 95% over the last century and, despite ongoing conservation efforts, its numbers continue to fall. There are now barely 20,000 breeding pairs in the world – and the largest colony is in South Africa, on islands around Algoa Bay in the country’s Eastern Cape province.

There are several reasons for the decline in African Penguin numbers. Historically, egg collecting played a major role in decreasing population numbers, and guano scraping for fertiliser removed important nesting habitats. But today the main threat the African Penguin faces is a shortage of the small fish it prefers to feed on.

Environmental changes coupled with local overfishing have seen the penguin’s prey shift their range from the west coast upwelling region to South Africa’s south coast. However, there are very few suitable breeding islands off the south coast, and that leaves the penguins with few safe breeding locations. Read more…

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