Guests on Dyer Island Cruises whale trip were in for a special surprise. Besides some special sightings of the southern right whales, the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary team were on board to release two African penguins near Dyer Island.
Reuns Kollege recently visited the sanctuary and for many of the children, it was the first time they have seen an African penguin. The sanctuary has been impacted by the Covid pandemic and whilst staff are there daily to take care of the penguins, the APSS is currently only open on Friday afternoon and the weekends.
The African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary (APSS), situated in Gansbaai, is a project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. The Trust was established in 2006 by Wilfred Chivell, owner of award-winning Marine Dynamics shark cage diving and Dyer Island Cruises whale watching. Wilfred’s passion for penguins led to the establishment of the non-profit. The companies are an important part of the tourism and conservation model and educate guests daily on the plight of the African penguin and conservation efforts. Guests can support the various projects, and all are required to pay a nominal conservation fee when joining Dyer Island Cruises – this amount goes straight to the Trust.
The rehabilitation and release of African penguins to return them to the breeding population is one of the active conservation measures implemented through the African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plan to try to prevent the decline of the population. The two penguins that were released had recovered from various injuries – one was a seal bite and the other had an elastic band caught around its beak. The rescue, rehabilitation and release of an adult African penguin is a conservation triumph as fledgling penguins will take between 4 to six years to start breeding.
When the first African Penguin census was conducted in 1956, a total of 300 000 adult African Penguins were recorded. There are now less than 42 000 adult African penguins remaining in the wild. Historical factors of egg and guano harvesting contributed to the decline but now the penguins face other challenges such as overfishing in their hunting grounds, oil and marine pollution, and various predators. The African penguin is historically an island dweller, and the APSS is committed to rebuilding the population on the protected Dyer Island, in partnership with CapeNature, the managing authority. APSS is committed to making a difference to the conservation of this indicator species and South Africa’s only endemic penguin. APSS releases all penguin chicks directly on Dyer Island so that they recognise this island as their colony and return there to breed. Dyer Island was a thriving colony in the 70s with 25000 breeding pairs, but now is only at around 1000 breeding pairs. Penguins are released off Dyer Island Cruises when conditions allow, and a public release usually happens in December as part of the education outreach.
The African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) sees over 20 000 guests every year and at least 3000 students are educated through organised visits.
The onsite coffee and curio shop support the funding model. School groups can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange. Should you find an African penguin or another seabirds in need of assistance call the dedicated rescue line number 0725987117.