New technology will help to protect South African penguins
Press release issued: 14 January 2011
Scientists in South Africa are introducing a cutting-edge automatic penguin recognition system which will reduce the need for potentially harmful banding of birds.
Lead scientist on the Earthwatch project on Robben Island, Professor Peter Barham from the University of Bristol, referring to research carried out by French scientists who had found that king penguins had 40 per cent fewer chicks if they were banded, and lived shorter lives, said: “There have been several studies on the effect of banding on African penguins and Magellanics penguins which have been unable to find any significant differences between banded and unbanded penguins when it comes to breeding success.
“There are, however, other impacts of banding which is one reason why we want to introduce the recognition system to replace banding where possible. From time to time, for example, we find African penguins trapped by their bands.”
The Earthwatch team in South Africa are also playing an important role in drawing up the first National Biodiversity Management Plan for the African penguin. Professors Peter Barham and Les Underhill, Dr Robert Crawford and Mario Leshoro contributed to a three-day workshop in Arniston in the Western Cape in October 2010. The event was facilitated by CapeNature, a public institution with statutory responsibility for biodiversity conservation in the Western Cape, and the Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts. Thirty seven organisations from all spheres of penguin conservation were represented at the workshop.