Monitoring the African Penguin population in Algoa Bay

Aug 3, 2023 | WFA News

In September 2022, seven Wilderness Foundation Africa Seabird Monitors embarked on a 12-month long project, funded through IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union, to assist Addo Elephant National Park with the monitoring of the African Penguin population on Bird Island in Algoa Bay. The aim is to reduce mortalities, monitor African Penguin nesting success, assist with rescue and rehabilitation efforts in order to reduce adult and chick mortalities, to monitor Cape Gannet breeding success, and where appropriate monitor Cape Cormorant populations and breeding grounds.

The project has had great success to date. From September 2022 to June 2023 the monitors completed 285 days of monitoring with 364-foot patrols on Bird Island to look for injured, sick or oiled birds. No oiled birds and no disease outbreaks have been detected on Bird Island in this reporting period.

The following seabirds were rescued, taken into rehabilitation, and removed to the mainland for further rehabilitation at SANCCOB[i] through the assistance of the seabird monitors:

  • 52 African Penguin Adults;
  • 22 African Penguin Blues/juveniles;
  • 87 African Penguin chicks;
  • 27 Cape Gannet adults;
  • 4 Cape Gannet juveniles;
  • 10 Cape Gannet chicks.

After successful rehabilitation, the seabird monitors assisted with the release of the following seabirds back onto Bird Island:

  • 81 African Penguin Adults;
  • 63 African Penguin Blues/juveniles;
  • 17 Cape Gannet adults;
  • 5 Cape Gannet juveniles;
  • 10 Gape Gannet chicks.

The monitors are assisting with the monitoring of up to 347 artificial nests on Bird Island documenting occupancy of penguin adults, and presence of eggs and chicks. They also assist with daily counts of Kelp Gulls and monthly counts of nesting Cape Gannets. 1 000 Cape Gannets were also ringed with the assistance of the monitors in the last 10 months.

During the winter storms currently being experienced drainage trenches pathways are being dug open in the gannetry and penguin colonies to prevent flooding from heavy rains.

The following additional interesting bird sightings on Bird Island have also been made: Sooty Tern, Roseatte Terns in full breeding plumage, Greater Flamingo (Juvenile), Rock dove (adult) racing bird that went off course during a race, Brown Booby (adult) and a Red-tailed Tropicbird.

Tagging of Cape Gannets on Bird Island. Photo credit: Newi Makhado

A rare Red-tailed Tropic Bird seen on Bird Island. Photo credit: Megan Jackson

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union through IUCN Save our Species. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Wilderness Foundation Africa and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN or the European Union.


[i] SANCCOB is the The Southern African Foundation For The Conservation Of Coastal Birds.