November 25, 2008 by dyertrust

African Penguins are the only penguin species that breed in Africa, and are found on offshore islands and a few land based colonies in Namibia and South Africa. Like many penguin species, the African Penguin population is in serious trouble with the breeding census figures released in 2006 documenting the lowest ever recorded number of breeding pairs since African Penguin monitoring first began in the 1950’s.

In order to address this current state of affairs, the Dyer island Conservation Trust hosted the first annual African Penguin Meeting in Gansbaai from 24th -25th May 2008. This 2 day conference brought together over 30 African penguin researchers representing both South Africa and Namibia to collaborate and discuss African penguin status, conservation and management. The weekend saw representatives from CapeNature, SANParks, Marine and Coastal Management (MCM), Adjubatus, Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), DICT, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Bayworld, Avian Demography Unit (ADU), Robben Island Museum, University of Cape Town (UCT), Overstrand Municipality, and Overberg District Municipality. The conference boasted an international flair with delegates from Canada, France, Brazil and Germany.

Saturday began with an opening talk from Councillor Pieter Scholtz. This was followed by one of the highlights of the conference, an interactive oil spill exercise, appropriately named “Black Penguin”. This exercise will be fundamental for the development of a contingency plan in the event of an oil spill event. Oil spills have a large negative impact on penguins as the oil can quickly and fatally coat penguin feathers and habitat. The conference also focused on factors surrounding the IUCN “vulnerable” (to extinction) status of the African penguins, such as fish levels, habitat loss, and egg/chick predations. At the end of the conference, delegates put together theGansbaai declarationon the African Penguin, calling on all the relevant authorities to halt the further decline of this vulnerable species.

The conference brought forth many important issues and proved to be a huge success. Planning is already in the works for the 2nd annual conference next year.

The weekend also coincided with the very important 2 year anniversary of DICT. A pre-conference reception was held on Friday evening to both initiate the conference and jointly celebrate 2 very successful years for DICT. This was a special evening to gather all of those who have made a significant contribution to DICT since its establishment. The reception boasted not only the reveal of a new logo for DICT, but also the critically important signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between DICT, signed by Wilfred Chivell, and CapeNature, signed by Deon Geldenhuys. This partnership will be fundamental for the future work of the trust.