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September 27, 2010

Cape Town Tourism adopts a penguin for World Tourism Day

african penguin

Jinga, Cape Town Tourism’s adopted African penguin. Photos by Skye Grove

Today, September 27, is World Tourism Day and the theme of this year’s celebration is “Tourism and Biodiversity”. African penguins are a familiar sight to Capetonians and visitors to our city alike, but it is alarming to know that the plight of these beloved seabirds is more critical than most of us realise.

This is why Cape Town Tourism partnered with SANCCOB, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, today of all days, to highlight the critical interventions needed to protect the African penguin for generations to come. How? We adopted a penguin. But this little fellow still needs a name, and Cape Town Tourism is offering to adopt another penguin on behalf of the person who comes up with the most original one. You can post your suggestions on our Facebook fan page

A mere 50 years ago, there were more than 1-million African penguins along our coast, but human activity, like commercial fishing, has reduced this number by a staggering 90%. Today, there are just over 25 000 breeding pairs of wild African penguins living in colonies across South Africa and Namibia. The African penguin, together with over a dozen other sea bird species found in South Africa, is considered to be threatened and vulnerable to extinction. National Geographic recently reported that African penguins have been sliding toward extinction since the advent of industrial fishing around the Cape. The last four years have seen a population crash, prompting BirdLife International to change the conservation status of the African penguin from “vulnerable” to “endangered” in May 2010.

SANCCOB, an organisation that aims to protect and conserve Southern Africa’s coastal birds for the benefit of present and future generations, is seeking to address this challenge, and making a remarkable difference. Recent research by the Avian Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town has shown that the African penguin population is 19% larger today than it would have been in the absence of SANCCOB’s efforts in rehabilitation. Cape Town Tourism supports SANCCOB in their efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, release and research this precious species, as well as in their initiatives to educate, train, raise awareness and drive advocacy efforts.

The story of the African penguin is just one example of how delicately balanced our biodiversity is. On the one hand we have increased human populations, better technology and greater demand for growth; on the other we have a fragile eco-system, its survival dependent on the strength of every small link in the biodiversity chain. In tourism, our natural bounty is one of our selling points, and one of the key reasons that people are so moved by their visit to the Mother City.

Today, as we consider the role of “tourism in sustaining biodiversity”, we pledge that Cape Town Tourism will accelerate its work around the use of tourism as a platform to raise awareness about biodiversity. It is essential to create not just awareness, but also a desire among Capetonians and visitors to protect, conserve and celebrate our environment, so that it is there for future generations.

If you’d like to contribute to SANCCOB’s work, why not take our lead and adopt a penguin of your own? More details can be found on SANCCOB’s website: http://sanccob.co.za/?m=11&s=2.

penguin sanctuary

The SANCCOB rehabilitation centre

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