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Thread: The Cape of Good Hope penguins at Boulders Beach

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    Elite Member Honey's Avatar
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    Default The Cape of Good Hope penguins at Boulders Beach


    Nesting in the sparkling sand, preening on the rocks and darting through the waters, the penguins on the southern tip of Africa are the ultimate crowd-pleaser. But crisis looms


    Short of food, exposed to predators and the African sun, their numbers are plummeting. But salvation may rest in a simple manmade solution housing for penguins


    Dotting the shore of this penguin colony near the Cape of Good Hope are 200 nesting boxes, each big enough to house a happy family of parents, eggs and chicks. The experiment has already worked well on a more distant penguin island in South African waters, and wildlife rangers are eagerly watching to see whether the boxes recently installed on Boulders Beach, where tourists can watch the birds up close, will prove equally attractive


    "You look at the penguins and think they have a lovely time in sunny South Africa, but it's a struggle," said a ranger with the Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town, where summer temperatures recently hit 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit).


    Park authorities installed the boxes made of a fiberglass mix, shaped like a burrow and dug into the sand to mimic the real nests at Boulders Beach as part of desperate efforts to protect the dwindling populations of African penguins
    Picture: AP

    It has been a losing struggle. Numbers of the cute, curious creatures have plummeted from around 3 million in the 1930s to just 120,000 because of overfishing and pollution
    Picture: AP

    Some experts fear the species will die out in as little as a decade, and are particularly alarmed at the prospect of global warming increasing the number of scorching days, raising water temperatures and altering fish migration patterns


    The Boulders Beach colony has fallen 30 percent from a peak of 3,900 birds in 2005 to 2,600 and some of the island colonies have suffered calamitous declines of 50 percent


    The African penguin, also called the jackass because of its bray, is the only one to inhabit the African continent. It has shorter feathers than the Antarctic birds because it doesn't face such cold and is just 50 centimetres (20 inches) tall


    The Boulders Colony began in 1985 when a couple of penguins moved from a nearby island onto the beach in the naval base of Simon's Town, decided they liked it and stayed. So many followed that authorities had to build fences to prevent them invading people's gardens. But the tourists poured in


    About 600,000 a year now visit Boulders Beach, which boasts that it is the only place in the world where people can swim with penguins. The real life "Happy Feet" are unfazed by all the attention and, apart from a few who were killed while snoozing under visitors' cars, don't seem to have suffered from their contact with humans


    However the population fall continues, especially on the more remote Dyer Island where numbers have plummeted from 23,000 breeding pairs in the early 1970s to just 1,500 pairs. Penguins normally mate for life


    Gulls prey on the eggs and young chicks, often working as a team; the nesting penguins leave their eggs to chase away the invaders, while another gull sneaks in behind. Eggs lie abandoned in the sand because the parents have taken to the water to escape the heat. Once a nesting pair abandons its eggs, other penguins often follow suit


    So volunteers calling themselves the iKapa Honorary Rangers asked the public to sponsor nesting boxes for 14 each. They initially planned 100 boxes but this was doubled thanks to a 1,400 donation from the Species Survival Plan. Now the hope is the Boulders Beach penguins that have lost eggs and chicks will learn the lesson and take to the newly installed boxes in time to lay a second batch before the laying season ends in April

    The Cape of Good Hope penguins at Boulders Beach - Telegraph

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    Elite Member sparkly's Avatar
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    I'm jealous of anyone that gets to be near penguins!
    Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.

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    Elite Member angelais's Avatar
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    I would love to be there! I would never want to leave.
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