What is #Waddle2017 all about?
Wouldn’t it be sad if the only place you could see an African penguin was at an aquarium?
From 8 May, 16 penguin lovers from all over South Africa will be walking from Gansbaai to Boulders Beach in Simon's Town. While it might sound like a nice excuse to take in the beauty of the southern Cape (which it doubtless is), there is a real mission behind this meander.
We will be waddling for the African penguin to raise our voices for an endangered species that can’t fight the battle on its own. Led by African penguin conservation initiative Penguin Promises and the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Waddle for a Week campaign, now in its seventh year, is all about giving these beautiful endemic birds a fighting chance at survival.
We’re drawing attention to the fact that there are practical steps we can take in our everyday lives to help protect the fast-dwindling numbers of African penguins still living and breeding on the South African coast.
What you can do
During the Waddle, we will be asking everyone we meet to make at least one “penguin promise” to help protect this beautiful bird. Here are some of the pledges you can make:
- Use energy-efficient light bulbs
- Separate household garbage for easy recycling
- Use water-saving showerheads
- Buy local rather than carbon-heavy imported goods
- Say “no” to plastic drinking straws
- Eat less meat
- To not litter and to pick up litter where you see it
- Eat only sustainable seafood
- To ban single-use plastic from your home
Penguins in trouble
According to the IUCN, the African penguin population has declined dramatically since the mid-20th century. There was an estimated 141 000 pairs in 1957, 69 000 pairs in 1980, 57 000 pairs in 2005 and 36 000 pairs in 2007. “Declines have continued, with the global population in 2009 estimated at just 25 262 pairs.
That equates to a staggering decline of 61% over just 28 years.
According to Penguin Promises, the African penguin is threated by human activity. In the past, collectors would go into the nesting areas and remove all the eggs, then wait for fresh eggs to be laid, and remove these to be sold as delicacies. This practice has now been banned but it contributed significantly to penguin population decline.
For centuries guano (penguin poop) accumulated on breeding islands and formed thick layers. Penguins used these guano layers as nesting sites but, as humans collected guano for fertiliser, penguins and their eggs were left vulnerable to the elements.
Other human-caused problems that have contributed to the penguins’ decline include climate change, with increased temperatures and unpredictable weather, severe pollution like oil spills and marine debris, and overfishing, which means that as humans we are depleting the availability of penguins’ food sources.