By: Sukaina Ishmail
Cape Town – Tourists and visitors to Boulders Beach are potentially threatening the survival of the penguin colony by overstepping the boundaries instead of maintaining the required three-metre distance.
Boulders Beach receives 2000 visitors daily during the year and during the December/January peak holiday period up to 5000 visitors enter the site.
Environmental activists and the public have been campaigning against the behaviour of tourists visiting the penguin colony after they observed how tourists would get very close to penguins to get a picture with them.
#SeaTheBiggerPicture organisation co-founder Shamier Magmoet said: “Tourists are getting unusually close to the penguins, which is prohibited at the site. They’re also seen touching the birds and would jump the boardwalk and fences to get a picture with the penguins.
“This behaviour puts a tremendous amount of stress on a creature that’s already an endangered species.”
Magmoet said there were limited rangers patrolling the area in comparison to the large number of visitors.
SA National Parks (SANParks) spokesperson Lauren Clayton said: “We certainly don’t allow, nor do we encourage tourists to get too close to the penguins.
“We can’t, however, be everywhere at once, so people will take chances getting close to the penguins when there’s no ranger around.”
Clayton said tourists needed to be at least 2-3metres away from the penguins, however if the birds showed signs of stress, visitors needed to respect them and give them the space they needed.
SA Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds research manager Katta Ludynia said the African penguin was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and any disturbances of this penguin could lead to further endangerment of the birds.
“The summer months are of grave concern to us. This is typically a stressful time for the penguins as most of them go into moult.
“When a penguin goes into moult, it loses its capacity to keep warm in the water and during this time the penguin can’t go to forage in the waters.
“If a penguin runs into the water as a consequence of humans interfering with it, it can lead to the penguin’s death,” she said.
Clayton said: “SANParks will continue to track visitor numbers and redeploy staff based on the visitor numbers and pressures around the colony.”
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