Image credit: Graham Racher/Flickr
The small islands off the coast of South Africa that serve as the breeding grounds for the African Penguin—the only species that breeds on the continent—have not experienced an unseasonably cold winter but persistent wind and rain have created dangerous—and deadly—conditions for young penguin chicks.Still covered in their youthful downy, the chicks are vulnerable to South Africa's wet, windy, winter weather. Indeed, it is not uncommon for as much as a third of African Penguin chicks to die during severe winter conditions each year.
Image credit: Nick Perretti/Flickr
Still, with the loss of 600 individuals on a single island in a relatively short period, the outlook for the species—just recently classified as endangered by the IUCN—is not good.
Since 1956, when a survey estimated 150,000 mating pairs on the islands, the population has dropped to only 26,000 pairs according to a survey conducted last year—representing an 80% decrease in half a century.
The African Penguin population on Bird Island, where the deaths occurred, numbers only 700 pairs—meaning this recent loss represents more than half the island's chicks.