African penguin release 27 December 2017

December 28, 2017 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

It is always an emotional moment when we send these iconic, ocean warriors back to the big blue. It is literally a process of;

Blood - They are feisty and scared when they are admitted, biting the hands that feed them is a natural response.
Sweat - Cleaning, cleaning and more scrubbing to keep the penguin hospital in tip-top shape for the penguin patients.
Tears - On the day we return them to the wide open blue space, we shed a tear, because we made a difference, we gave them a second chance.

read more

African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary: First 5km Fun Run!

December 21, 2017 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Ready, set, go! And the walkers and runners, dogs too, were off on the first 5km fun walk/run in aid of the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS)

Based in Gansbaai, the APSS is a critical seabird rehabilitation facility with a special focus on the endangered African penguin. APSS is a project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust that has since 2006 been active in penguin conservation measures including a penguin nest project that replaces their natural burrows of guano. A history of guano removal for agricultural fertiliser has left the penguins exposed to the elements and predators and the nest or penguin ‘homes’ are critical to their breeding success.

This family friendly event held on the 21st December attracted just over a hundred participants. Although an untimed run, the first four men and women were recognised as was the first dog, Layla. Louw Burger was the first man to arrive with a time of 20min15. The next three were all juniors: 2nd Daniel Erasmus, 3rd Hanro Coetzee, 4th DeWet Nel. First lady, also a junior, was Suzaan van Vuuren, 2nd Jansie Smith, 3rd Talitha van Vuuren, 4th Nina Martin. Prizes included eco trips with Dyer Island Cruises and meals at the Great White House and some penguin scarves for the children. The event was kindly covered by Worcester radio bring a festive spirit to the morning.

The event held two objectives – critical fundraising and awareness of the African Penguin and its endangered status. Brenda du Toit, Public Relations, highlighted the fact that the penguins belong to all the community and that we can all play a part. As South Africa’s endemic species, the APSS strives to turn around their possible extinction by returning penguins they have saved from injuries, disease or pollution, back to their natural habitat where they can continue to breed. “As the first event, we did this on a small scale but we will make it an annual event on the calendar, and grow accordingly,” said Du Toit.  “CEO of the Dyer island Conservation Trust, Wilfred Chivell, was there to participate. This event was a long held dream for him to have as was the penguin sanctuary.”

Special thanks are extended to all participants and volunteers who gave of their time to make the morning a success. Special thanks to sponsors: Marine Dynamics; Dyer Island Cruises; Great White House; Worcester Radio; Gerhard van der Merwe who arranged financial contributions from Sterling Private Wealth, Kia Hermanus, Boxman and Hermanus Dental Practice and Gansbaai Tourism for loaning us some tables.

The APSS is open daily from 9am to 4pm with a 3pm feeding time. Coffee and curio shop onsite and entrance is free although donations are welcome.


read more

PRESS RELEASE: Volkswagen and Dyer Island Conservation Trust turn on the lights of Joburg’s first Lighthouse

December 04, 2017

To create awareness for the conservation efforts of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, Volkswagen brought the ocean to Joburg and created the Dyer Island Inland Lighthouse – Joburg’s first lighthouse.

While lighthouses traditionally face out to sea, warning sailors of approaching land, Volkswagen created the Dyer Island Inland Lighthouse facing in the opposite direction to enlighten South Africans of the dangers of plastic waste to our oceans and its creatures.

The symbolic lighthouse was built using recycled plastic bottles, creating a spectacular light installation and went up in The Zone @Rosebank from 30 November until 3 December 2017. The purpose of the installation was to educate South Africans about the importance of conservation efforts focused on our fragile marine eco-system, just before Joburgers flock to the beaches for the Festive Season. Not only that, the lighthouse rewarded visitors who dropped plastic bottles or waste into the recycling bin by shining its lights brightly in gratitude.

The interactive installation also encouraged passers by to take a brave stand against plastic waste by taking a picture in the plastic-waste created Jellyfish Insta-booth and sharing these on social media as a commitment to our oceans. For those wanting to dive right in and support the cause - and take home a token - they could donate towards the trust at the craft table. Here local crafters turned trash into treasure by creating the marine icons of Dyer Island, like penguins and sharks, out of the very material putting their futures in danger. 

To spark conversation on social media, Volkswagen also asked South Africans to share their wishes for the world by using #VWWishForTheWorld. “Volkswagen’s wish for the world is to be at the forefront of creating a more sustainable future and we are humbled to work with passionate partners like the Dyer Island Conservation Trust who help us make this wish come true,” commented Meredith Kelly, Head of Marketing at Volkswagen South Africa, partners and supporters of Dyer Island and the ocean’s future.

The team from the Dyer Island Conservation Trust that attended included shark biologist Alison Towner, educator Pinkey Ngewu and Brenda du Toit. “This was an incredible opportunity to highlight our conservation work and draw attention to Gansbaai and our unique ecosystem. Marine pollution is top of mind at the moment especially with the current nurdle disaster - the plastic pellets that are washing up along the coastline after a spill in Durban. To be able to take this message inland is critical and we are grateful to Volkswagen for arranging this campaign. Over and above their considerable support to the Trust since 2011, Volkswagen donated R250 for every guest attending raising a further R15 000 and R3026 was raised by the donations towards the work of the local crafters,” added du Toit.

Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean - Ryunosuke Satoro

read more

Marine Month Competition Winners 2017

November 20, 2017 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Marine Dynamics & Dyer Island Cruises together with their environmental project, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, and with the support of conservation partner, the Overstrand Municipality, held a competition with the schools in the Cape Whale Coast area - from Kleinmond to Gansbaai - to celebrate national marine month. Marine Month held every October is a national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of our oceans. 

The competition comprises of three categories for the various age groups that include colouring in, poetry and an essay or short film. Pinkey Ngewu from the Dyer Island Conservation Trust visited schools in the Overstrand area during the month of September to inform learners about the competition. The main objectives are education and awareness to students about the ocean systems, our MARINE ENVIRONMENT and the MARINE BIG 5. In the process, the team hopes to inspire the youth to take care of our oceans and our environment. Dyer Island Cruises sponsored a boat trip for the top 30 winners to provide the opportunity to see first-hand the unique Dyer Island ecosystem right on their doorstep. The group of winners headed out on Dream Catcher for a whale watching tour. To the delight of the group, the southern right whales were just outside Kleinbaai harbour. Also on this one we spotted the whale just shortly after launching from the harbour in Kleinbaai. After spending a little while with the whales the group headed past the shark cage diving boats, the Cape Fur seal colony on Geyser Rock and were awed at the variety of seabirds around Dyer Island.

Winners of the 2017 Marine Month competition:

Category 1: Colouring

1st Linamandla Loloni from Masakhane Primary School
2nd Nina Strydom from Laerskool Gansbaai
3rd Rachel Horn from Okkie Smuts Primary

Highly Commended:

Mia Lindes
Gabriella Hogan
Cayleb Jenson
Emma Privett
Joy Booysen
Naomi Mão-Chieu
Joanna Burmann
Glenwill Beyers
Hellen Ackermann
Sinothando Zenzile
Onikayo Npengu
Merichen May

Category 2: Poetry

1st Daniel Cornell from Curro
2nd Tsoanelo Haarhof from Gansbaai Primêr
3rd Lara Strydom from Laerskool Gansbaai

Highly Commended:

Athulile Shumane
Lukhanyo Ndulumbano
Andre Geerdts
Milethea Daniels
Oliver Winfield
Casandra Saayman
Jake Van Gemert

Category 3: Essay

1st Aimelize Geerdts from Gansbaai Academia
2nd Jordan Linehan from Gansbaai Academia
3rd Zikhona Ntlahla from Gansbaai Academia

Highly Commended:

Lerato Hermanus
Odwa Mntukaziwa
Caitlin van Eeden

The marine month competition in partnership with the Overstrand Municipality and sponsored by Dyer Island Cruises , the Department of Environmental Affairs & DP .

read more


November 06, 2017 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust, Overstrand Muncipality and South African Shark Conservancy are working on a project to collect nurdles in the Overstrand area as part of a larger study to investigate the distribution and movement of nurdles along the entire South African coast following a disastrous spill in the Durban Harbour.

Please help us to spread the word, clean up wherever possible and monitor our coastline!

read more

DICT Celebrates African Penguin Awareness Day

October 15, 2017 Dyer ISland Conservation Trust

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust team embraced African Penguin Awareness Day with education, a penguin release and a fun concert by DICT’s environmental education group.

Pinkey Ngewu and Mervin Visagie visited the local Gansbaai primary schools where they enlightened students about the plight of this endangered species by sharing important and fun facts and teaching a special penguin dance. On Saturday, 14 October the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (a project of DICT) released four recovered penguins back into their natural home. The group was representative of all the sea-going ages. Once penguins have passed their fluffy chick stage, anything from 60 to 130 days from hatching, they become what is termed blues. This is when they have lost their fluffy feathers, are now waterproof and have a blue sheen on their feathers. Their stomach is white and they do not look much like an adult penguin with its distinctive black and white. In fact before they will look like that they still have a rather ugly ‘teenager’ phase to go through with their drab brown feather colour and splotchy white headgear.

read more

DEEP Goes Camping!

October 09, 2017 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust works with dedicated learners from Masakhane Primary school and runs for three years to monitor and evaluate their progress and impact Environmental Education can do to young kids.

At the end of each year learners from the first and second year go on an educational camp. This year the learners went to Wortelgat in Stanford where they spent the weekend learning about teamwork and how to care for the environment. They had a fun filled day of activities on Saturday which were focussed on team work. As a treat the learners were given an opportunity to go canoeing in the Stanford River.

This was a lifetime experience for them. We would like to thank our sponsors PlasLantic, Community Chest, Mike Gibbs, Marine Dynamics, Dyer Island Cruises and International Marine Volunteers.

read more


October 02, 2017 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Since 2009 the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) has been part of the eco marine tent and this year the team once again played a critical role in educating festival goers about whales, sharks and the endangered African penguin. The Trust’s corporate sponsor, Volkswagen South Africa, also stepped up to highlight marine pollution with a special light display made of recycled materials. The message was that of ‘lighting the way to cleaner beaches.’ The installation is a sneak preview of the larger light Installation coming to Gansbaai this festive season.

While many were fascinated by the lights and inspired to do similar, for some the message fell on deaf ears as many people attending the festival disregarded the many bins supplied by the municipality. This highlighted the need for continued efforts on the part of many in educating the public on the effects pollution has not only on our marine life but on people’s health as well.

Various members of the team also gave educational talks in the whale museum: Alison Towner on white shark / orca interactions; Meredith Thornton on whales; Theanette Staal on the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary and Dickie Chivell on his Shark Week filming experiences.

“The highlight for all of us was the interest taken by the children in matching shark fins, hugging Molly the fluffy penguin or learning about whales and shark eggs. It is really rewarding to see some of the young budding biologists who clearly inspired their parents,” said Brenda du Toit, Public Relations of Marine Dynamics that sponsored the space for the Trust.

Special thanks are extended to the eco-marine tent organisers, Jeanette du Toit and Linda Chivell and CapeNature for sponsoring the additional space for DICT.

read more

Gansbaai: International Coastal Clean-up Day

September 18, 2017 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Annually, the world unites in a coastal clean-up initiative. Data collected from this day feeds into a national and international database with Ocean Conservancy who started this global action.

This year the Dyer Island Conservation Trust partnered with Volkswagen, Marine Dynamics and Overstrand Municipality in support of International Coastal Clean Up Day. In Gansbaai, a few groups united to work in different areas. Our group of 39 including our environmental education group (DEEP) tackled the Gansbaai caravan park area, moving towards the Gansbaai tidal pool, a distance of 1.5km. Together we collected 21 bags of trash totalling 55kgs. The primary items we collected were condoms (152), straws/stirrers (892) and plastic bottle caps (554). Other high items were cigarette butts (340) and food wrappers (314). These findings are consistent with international stats on prime marine pollution offenders.  The condom problem is along our valuable coastline and is a direct action of the illegal abalone poaching in the area. It is believed the condoms are used to keep cell phones protected.

read more

The Tooth, the Whole Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth

August 28, 2017 Georgia French


In late 2014 and early to mid 2015, I was lucky enough to collect data on white sharks with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) and Marine Dynamics (MD). I’m working on my PhD with the University of Sussex, focussing on sexual and individual variation in white shark ecology. I’m very pleased that the first chapter of my PhD has just been published as a paper in the Journal of Fish Biology.

This paper is all about the white shark’s famous teeth, and how they change shape as they get older. Kind of like in humans, smaller white sharks are thought to have “baby teeth” – pointy in shape, which is believed to be an adaptation for gripping fish prey. When the sharks hit roughly 3m in length, they’re then thought to get their “adult teeth” which are broad in shape and believed to facilitate catching and eating marine mammals like seals and dolphins. This change in tooth shape is taken as established fact, and is accepted and quoted around the world. However, through reading several books and papers I’d found a few pieces of evidence that seemed to show that this wasn’t always the case, so I decided to look into it further.

Data Collection

The first challenge was to figure out how to get measurements of the teeth. All of the previously published work on white shark teeth was from dead sharks – I needed to come up with a method to get the same measurements from live ones. This is where DICT and MD came in. I realised that cage diving provides the perfect opportunity to get good photos of the shark’s teeth – if you look through the MD blog, you’ll see what I mean! When the sharks interact with the seal decoy or bait lure, they often either treat them like prey, or they try to check them out with their mouths (as they are lacking in the hand department, they use their mouths to see what things feel and taste like). This means that they open their mouths a lot – perfect.

I designed a method that meant that I could calculate how “pointy” the shark’s teeth were from photographs taken during cage diving trips. Being able to work from Slashfin was a huge bonus, as it’s very stable and comfortable, and has a nice high viewing deck that meant myself and colleagues could get photos from above, as the sharks came out of the water. In addition to the tooth photos, from Slashfin it was possible to estimate each shark’s length, see if it was male or female, and identify each individual so that I would know if I had measured its teeth twice. I then combined these data with published information and measurements taken from the jaw collection of the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board and analysed the relationships between male and female shark length and their tooth shape. The findings were pretty astounding.


It turns out that it seems like the males and females are very different when it comes to their teeth. The main results showed that male sharks do change their teeth from pointy to broad, but females don’t. In the females, I identified three different tooth shapes – pointed, intermediate and broad – and a female of any size could fit one of these categories. This suggests that there may be three “types” or morphs of female, which could be specialising on different types. Alternatively, tooth shape could actually have nothing to do with diet, and instead males could be using their broad teeth to help them hold onto females during mating. Both of these scenarios blow the classic concept of tooth shape change through a white shark’s life out of the water.

Experience and Thanks

During data collection, it was great to be able to talk to interested clients about what I was doing, and to spend time in the company of the most awesome fish in the sea was just fantastic. I was really grateful to all of the crew of Slashfin, who skilfully brought the sharks to the boat, helped me to accurately estimate the shark’s lengths and sexes and identified individual sharks that they knew.

It was also an absolute pleasure to give talks to and work with groups from International Marine Volunteers, who got valuable experience in white shark research through MD and DICT. One of these volunteers, Richard Dolan, is actually a co-author on the tooth paper as he volunteered to help individually identify the sharks in my dataset using DARWIN fin ID software – the same technique used previously by DICT scientists to make the first population estimate for white sharks in South Africa using photo ID. In fact, DICT associate David Edwards, who managed the DARWIN database for that paper, is another co-author on this research as he also helped out massively with my DARWIN work.

I’m hugely thankful to Onno Keller and Kelly Baker, MD Marine Biologists past and present, who in addition to providing me with accurate information on the sharks when we were on the boat, gave me some of their tooth photos from the trips. I also have to mention and thank Reservations Manager Aletta van Bosch for getting me onto the shark trips and of course, Wilfred Chivell, owner of Marine Dynamics and Founder of DICT, without whom none of the fieldwork would have possible.


read more