Two vehicles were involved in a car accident last week in Simon’s Town, South Africa. None of the passengers in the vehicles were harmed, but unfortunately one of the penguins was killed and another sustained minor injuries. The accident occurred when the drivers of the vehicles attempted to avoid hitting a group of endangered African penguins crossing the main road near Boulders Beach. Boulders Beach, a world-renowned African penguin colony, is located in Simon’s Town, making the area a hot spot for interaction between humans and these endangered seabirds.
A Cape Medical Response team responded to the accident and contacted the Cape of Good Hope SPCA when it was determined that penguins had been involved in the accident. A member of the SPCA’s Wildlife Unit assessed the injured seabird at the scene and the bird was then admitted to the SPCA’s animal hospital for further observation. The injured penguin has since been admitted to SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Bird) to undergo rehabilitation at its centre in Table View, Cape Town.
In a separate and unrelated incident, on Thursday morning, South African National Parks (SANParks) officials came across two more injured endangered African penguins in the Boulders Beach colony. The type of injuries on the penguins indicated that they too may have been hit by a motor vehicle.
SANParks officials were only able to capture one of the penguins, as the other managed to evade capture, retreating back into the colony area. SANParks marine rangers are on the lookout for the injured bird which escaped. The captured penguin sustained serious and life-threatening injuries, and is also being treated and monitored closely at SANCCOB’s seabird rehabilitation centre.
Members of the public are requested to be vigilant when driving through Simon’s Town. Despite the efforts of SANParks, who manage the Boulders Beach penguin colony, these endangered seabirds manage to find their way out of the protected area and can, on occasion, be found crossing streets and wandering into the urban areas.
Monique Ruthenberg, section ranger at SANParks Table Mountain National Park, said, “This time of year there is an increased risk of car accidents involving penguins due to wet roads, speeding motorists and the fact that penguins are small and difficult to spot given their black backs. Penguins are still in breeding season and frequently move between their nests and the ocean, often at night. As such, we urge members of the public to significantly reduce their speed when driving nearby colony areas and to keep an eye out for penguins.”
SANCCOB’s rehabilitation manager, Nicky Stander, says, “African penguins face numerous threats; some are natural, whilst others are caused by human actions. We urge everyone to help us to protect this precious and endangered seabird. When visiting Simon’s Town, or any area where humans co-exist with animals, try to adhere to the speed limits, drive cautiously and be aware of these little birds, which may be crossing roads.”
The African penguin, one of South Africa’s most iconic species, was classified as endangered in 2010. With an estimated 25,000 breeding pairs left in the wild, the population is at approximately 2.5% of the estimated figure of one million breeding pairs, recorded in the early 20th century. With the rapid decline of this species, the survival of individual penguins is critical.
If members of the public encounter an injured seabird or a penguin outside of the protected colony area, they are urged to contact SANParks on 021 786 2329 (office hours) or 0861 106417 (24-hour emergency number), or SANCCOB’s emergency response team on 021 557 6155 (office hours) or 078 638 3731 (24-hour emergency number).
SANCCOB and SANParks Table Mountain National Park would like to thank Cape Medical Response and the Cape of Good Hope SPCA for their swift response to the scene and also the Simon’s Town residents who contacted SANParks and the Emergency Services regarding the unfortunate incident.