Penguins Loved By La Pentola

March 07, 2017 Brenda du Toit

One of our favourite supporters, Shane Sauvage, of the famous restaurant, La Pentola visited the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) leaving behind a legacy of R10 000.00

Shane has been a staunch supporter of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust for some years now with a special fondness for our great white shark research. The Trust and  shark biologist, Alison Towner, was even featured in his most recent book, Cape Fusion. In April 2015, Shane was the guest chef at a special fundraising evening and even donated a special cooking evening. Shane brought his family to visit the penguins and his youngest, Marina, was in awe. “The Trust is truly grateful for this fantastic donation which will go towards the continued rehabilitation work with the endangered African penguins. The APSS has been opened for just two years and is making an important impact on the local penguin population of Dyer Island.  It is not possible for us to do this work without the continued support of the public. The penguins are the responsibility of all of us and we can all help make a difference,” says Theanette Staal, manager and veterinary nurse at APSS.

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South Africa's most endangered dolphin needs your help!

March 02, 2017 Meredith Thornton & Sandra Hoerbst

At the Dyer Island Conservation Trust we are lucky to have one of South Africa’s lesser-known species of dolphin occurring right here in the Greater Dyer Island Area.  This is a shy and somewhat elusive species called the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin.  Their species, or Latin, name is Sousa plumbea and they are officially classified as endangered in South African waters.

There are probably less than 10 000 in the world and most likely only a few hundred left in South Africa!  This very small population size means that they are South Africa’s most endangered dolphin and are thus in need of increased protection and continued monitoring.  They live close inshore, usually in waters less than 20m deep, and are often found around river mouths, like the Uilkraal estuary.

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African Penguin Release 23 Feb 2016 | African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary

February 23, 2017 Theanette Staal

Four adult penguins named Siân, Dippy, Patat and Mr Penguin Infanta were released today from Dream Catcher, Dyer Island Cruises' vessel, in the bay near Dyer Island where these penguins will now continue to live following their annual moult.

They say a leopard can’t change its spots.  Well…penguins can’t change their spots either, but they do change their feathers every year during an annual moult when they shed all their old feathers to be replaced by new feathers.  As the new feathers are not yet waterproof, a process which takes about 20 days, the penguins are unable to swim and cannot hunt for food.

Prior to their annual moult, penguins bulk-feed to build up fat reserves to sustain them during their moulting period.  If a penguin is unable to gain sufficient weight, the moulting process may be halted.  As the old feathers have by now become dried out and brown and are not waterproof anymore, these penguins cannot return to sea and will eventually starve to death on the shore.

However, when an “arrested moulter” arrives at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, we can help kick-start the moulting process again through rehydration, a good supply of pilchards, additional supplements and patience.

Once these penguins have completed their moult, regained their waterproofing, reached a good weight and are healthy, they are released back into the wild.

The rescue and release of adult African penguins is a conservation triumph. To grow the African penguin population, we need to protect the adult birds. They need to go forth and multiply. Conservation efforts must be focused on repairing their habitat, preventing disaster like oil spills and disease outbreaks and acting fast to rescue adult African penguins in trouble.

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust, through the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary is committed to making a difference. For us, conservation is about more than rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is needed because #EveryBirdCounts, but it is but one small step in the journey to rebuild the population.

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Today we celebrate World Whale Day! So why whales and why today?

February 17, 2017 Meredith Thornton

Well, the annual celebration was founded in 1980 in Maui, Hawaii, in order to honour humpback whales, which are found in big numbers just off its coast. Whale Day is the main showcase of the Maui Whale Festival.  Crowds stream to the island every year on this day to join in the free event which is organised by the Pacific Whale Foundation. They have a lot of fun, with a float parade with lots of costumed characters and activities for children and musical events from both Hawaiian and international stars.

Whales have evoked a range of emotions, actions and debates throughout the history of mankind.  Many people view whales as a resource for food, oil, whale bone, fishmeal and other whale products, and in fact the industrial revolution would not have been possible without the oil from whales…so (sadly) we have whales to thank for our modern existence.

However, man is a greedy species and we were unfortunately overzealous in the numbers of whales that we killed…nearly decimating our blue, southern right and humpback whale populations.  Whaling was declared illegal in the 1930’s but pirate whaling still continued until the 1960’s when it was finally stopped in South African for good.  Nowadays, instead of this uncontrolled situation, we utilise our whales sustainably through a well-regulated boat-based whale-watching industry as well as aerial and shore-based whale-watching tourism.  As South Africans we can be proud of how well this resource is managed.

World-wide there are about 90 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises and in South Africa alone we have nearly 40 of these of these!  Many of our whales are seldom seen at sea because they are shy, or they occur in much deeper waters off the continental shelf, which means that some species of whales are only really known from strandings, when they wash out along our shore, dead or alive.

The reasons for these strandings are many and varied and are most likely a combination of a couple of factors.  As humans we always want to know exactly why things happen, but when it comes to whale strandings we usually have to resign ourselves to the fact that we may never know for sure why the animal died.

Here in the greater Dyer Island area we are fortunate to have whales visiting our waters all year round.  We have humpback and southern rights during autumn-spring and even deep into the summer months, depending on the prevailing environmental conditions, but we also have a more secretive giant, the Bryde’s whale, which is present all year round, feeding on locally abundant shoaling fish, like sardines and anchovy.  Several times a year we also see dead stranded whales like pygmy and dwarf sperm whales, beaked and pilot whales.

If you ever come across a stranded animal please call us immediately on 072 598 7117 and tell us the locality, if the animal is dead or alive, the size of the animal (pace it out) and please take some photographs of the head and the overall body from the side.  We will go out and attend to the stranded animal, helping it if at all possible, and to collect important scientific information that goes to universities, museum and government departments.

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A Token of Appreciation

February 17, 2017 Pinkey Ngewu

After DICT and APSS received a generous donation of R6000.00 from the eager students of Okkie Smuts Primary School in Stanford, the day has finally arrived to take them on a marine adventure with Dyer Island Cruises.

This will be a token of appreciation for the generous and great work they are doing towards saving the endangered African penguin. The school principal Mr Koekemoer with the support of the teacher Mrs Marna Beets and the learners started a coin project as part of the school’s social development programme. It was such an excitement of the learners when they created 2 penguins with coins on the ground. The learners enjoyed the outing and sightings of African penguins swimming and the Cape Fur seals. They were fascinated by the sound the seals make and started imitating them.

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Deceased white shark at Pearly Beach, Gansbaai

February 09, 2017 Alison Towner

At 7 am this morning a deceased white shark Carcharodon carcharias was reported to us at the Dyer Island Conservation Trust by Anton Barnard in Pearly Beach. Marine Dynamics biologist Kelly Baker, the International Marine Volunteers and our staff assisted to retrieve the animal with our Samel vehicle. From external observations we can confirm the juvenile shark is a 2.63m (total length) specimen, a young female. She had no obvious signs of trauma however after washing the sand off her at the International Marine Volunteers lodge, with additional input from Dr Alison Kock of Shark Spotters, we observed measured and photographed any potentially interesting markings.

There will no doubt be speculation that Orcinus orca is responsible for this mortality as only yesterday we documented the two male Orca in the area. The fact is we cannot confirm this, it could also just be a coincidence. The autopsy of this shark will take place at Department of Environmental Affairs and will hopefully reveal more about the cause of death, which at this stage is very much inconclusive. Professor Susan Dippenar from University of Limpopo was on site with us and was able to sample live parasitic copepods from the sharks mouth-an indication that this animal had likely washed up recently before found. Interestingly the stranding site is where we have retrieved two dead whale shark Rhincodon typus carcasses in the past. It is an area known for strong currents.


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International Marine Volunteers help with Ragged tooth shark dissection

February 01, 2017 Alison Towner

By Alison Towner
Marine Biologist, Dyer Island Conservation Trust

On the 31st of January we had a rare opportunity to dissect a Ragged Tooth shark, Carcharias taurus. The shark had washed up dead in Franskraal earlier in the month and was collected by Wilfred Chivell to be frozen and dissected at the International Marine Volunteer (IMV) lodge. The specimen was a 2.56m mature male. Externally he looked healthy, but there was a small knife wound to his head and an injury on the side of his mouth- possibly from a hook. His liver was in good condition and unmarked showing no signs of disease or malnutrition. When we opened his stomach he had clearly fed well, there was a Red roman, and possibly a hake and Strepie inside, as well as a baitfish bag and two metal fishing hooks with wire still attached.

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African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary Penguin Release

December 17, 2016 Trudy Malan

On Monday, 12 December 2016, we released a crèche of African penguin fledglings on Dyer Island.

Rearing and releasing African penguin chicks is always an emotional journey full of fluff (literally) and proud “parental” moments. From the first swim, when they frantically flap their flippers as if they were not made for swimming, to the independent “whatever” teenager attitude when they are ready to leave. The conservation intervention of rearing abandoned chicks is necessary to arrest the further implosion of the population. It is however a costly and labour intensive exercise, with unknown outcomes. The fledgling penguins will, like any youngster, explore their options before they settle with a partner and start breeding, hopefully bolstering the natal colony where they were removed from. This process of “finding their flippers” can take from four to six years. It is a great move towards a “kick starter campaign” but we need to add more than a drop of maturity to the mix.

Adult Penguin Release, 17 December 2016

Therefore, the rescue and release of adult African penguins is a conservation triumph. To grow the African penguin population, we need to protect the adult birds. They need to go forth and multiply. Conservation efforts must be focused on repairing their habitat, preventing disaster like oil spills and disease outbreaks and acting fast to rescue adult African penguins in trouble.
The Dyer Island Conservation Trust, through the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary is committed to making a difference. For us, conservation is about more than rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is needed because #EveryBirdCounts, but it is but one small step in the journey to rebuild the population.

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” ― Mother Teresa

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An Expedition to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands

November 30, 2016 Brenda du Toit

Wilfred Chivell and Susan Visagie recently travelled to the spectacular isles of the South Atlantics for an adventure of a lifetime! At the most recent Marine Dynamics/Dyer Island Conservation Trust Marine Evening, Wilfred shared some of the images and moments of a very special trip. The Great White House was packed and everyone was keen to hear more about South Georgia and the Falkland Islands which form part of a marine protected area near South America and the Antarctic’s.

The trip was undertaken on board Sea Spirit guided by Doug and Dale from Cheesemans Ecology Safaris, experts in their field with over 35 years’ experience.

While Wilfred admits he is not one for visiting graves he was very interested to see that of explorer, Sir Ernest Shackelton.  Shackleton led three expeditions to the Antarctic. It was on his third that his ship, Endurance, was trapped in pack ice and subsequently crushed. The crew used the lifeboats to reach Elephant Island and the inhabited island of South Georgia. This distance of 720 nautical miles was covered during a terrible storm and is almost unbelievable to Wilfred that he made it. Wilfred saw first-hand how strong the wind and sea could be while out on the boat Sea Spirit so his admiration for Shackleton is now even stronger. In 1921, Shackleton returned to the Antarctic  but died of a heart attack while his ship was moored in South Georgia. At his wife's request he was buried there.

Something that struck Wilfred was that the area was pristine with no plastic or pollution in sight, a true place of wilderness. With majestic landscapes and flourishing marine wildlife he finally spotted some Southern right whale dolphins. Wilfred has travelled to many places to view one of the species he loves most, the penguin. In this expedition, including sightings in Chile, he was able to see six penguin species – the Chinstrap, King, Rockhopper, Gentoo, Macaroni and Humpboldt.

Wilfred shared some of his pictures, but with some 12 000 to go through he called upon visiting marine guide Judith Scott, herself having been on such an expedition, to incorporate  some of her photos too. All in all it made for an interesting evening.

(Should you wish to be on the marine evening mailing list, please send your details to

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Schools Donate to The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary

November 28, 2016 Pinkey Ngewu


DICT was once again invited by Okkie Smuts Primary school in Stanford to receive a donation on behalf of the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary - APSS. As part of the school’s social development programme, the principal and learners started a coin project to assist the endangered African penguin. The school raised a total amount of R5500.00, with the grade 3 classes being on top of their game and raising more than R2500. It was such a pleasure to witness the excitement of the learners as they created a penguin with coins on the ground. We are truly grateful to the school principal and teachers initiating the project and the learners for their dedication and love for penguins.

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