What Does Bristol Zoo Do To Help Conserve The African Penguins

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The African Penguin or Spheniscus demersus can be found on South African and Namibian coasts as well as other off-shore islands. They are currently an endangered species. According to www. bristolzoo. org. uk/african-penguin, there is a total breeding population of 72,000 pairs of birds (1). This shows a decline of 1,856,000 birds that can be found since the 1900’s. To try and keep track of the birds and their activities, scientists have tagged them with ‘flipper bands’. They have banded about 4,000 chicks and 40,000 adult penguins in the area of Robben Island of South Africa over the past 33 years.

They did/do this to find out how long they live and where they go to swim, feed and nest (2). The original decrease in population for the Spheniscus demersus was due to collecting too many of their eggs for food and a large removal of guano (sea-bird excrement) to be used as fertiliser. Removing the guano from the bird’s habitats means that they don’t have secreted nest-burrowing sites. This has resulted in them having to set up nests in the open, leaving them more vulnerable to predators (3). However, more recent threats to the African Penguins population include a lack of food source due to over fishing and oiling.

Oiling is the biggest single threat to African Penguins (4). Oil pollution affects the birds because it makes their feathers lose their water-proofing and they swallow it whilst they are attempting to clean themselves. Also it makes their feathers lose insulation causing them to catch hypothermia which can cause death if not treated. Two examples of oil spills that affected the population of the Spheniscus demersus are: June 1994, an oil spill off South Africa’s Cape peninsula affected 40,000 birds (5). June 2000, an oil spill in South Africa affected 40% of the population in the wild (1).

From both of these oil spills, 30,000 of the birds that were oiled died (6). Solving the Problem As the population of the Spheniscus demersus is continuing to decrease, certain actions have had to be made in order to conserve the life of these penguins. One thing that has been done is that all breeding sites have been made national parks, nature reserves or protected in various other ways. Doing this has ensured that the penguins breeding sites are undisturbed and the guano remains a secreted nest-burrowing site.

This reduces the risk of the birds being attacked by predators as a result of having to set up a nest-burrowing site in the open. As well as this, a programme was installed where small fibre-glass igloos were put into the birds’ habitats to be used as nest-sites. By the year 2006, just over 200 had been installed with a future target of 2,000, about 1 for every pair in that habitat. Eggs also cannot be taken from nests to be used for food. This will increase the amount of eggs that hatch each year and hopefully increase the population slightly (8).

SANCCOB is a South African charity which helps to rehabilitate oiled penguins. Roughly 1,000 oiled penguins are brought to SANCCOB’s rehabilitation centre each year as volunteers assist in the process of de-oiling and cleaning them. The graph to the right shows the increase of world annual oil consumption over 190 years. This dramatic increase in the amount of oil being consumed also causes an increase in the amount of oil being spilled. This is because, if you collect more oil then you have a higher chance of spilling some thus creating a correlation; the more oil that is consumed, the more oil will be spilled.

The penguins can stay in the rehabilitation centre for up to 6 weeks as they are nursed back to health before they are thought of being fit enough to be released back into the wild (4). Records show that over 80% of the penguins that are sent into the rehabilitation centre after being oiled are successfully returned back into the wild (8). Pichegru et al. (2010) came up with a research project looking into the benefits of small no-fishing zones near Spheniscus demersus’ breeding sites. Within the first year of setting this up, they found that adult foraging efforts decreased by 30% in a 20 km no-fishing zone.

They also found that once this ban had been put in place, the penguins from the island closest to this zone moved their feeding effort so that it was inside of the zone and the penguins of an island 50 km away increased their feeding effort to be able to get to the closed off zone. This proves that there is a lack of food for the birds due to over-fishing. Putting more of these small no-fishing zones around breeding sites will help the African penguins to decrease their feeding effort and be able to collect more food for their families (11).

The diagram shows how installing no-fishing zones has reduced the foraging range for the African penguins. From 2008 to 2010 the birds have gone from having a broader range of feeding dives to having a smaller but deeper range of dives. This shows that the zones have succeeded in keeping a sustainable amount of fish near a breeding site to be able to feed the penguins without them having to travel far distances. Is the Solution Appropriate? Turning certain areas where the African penguins live and breed into national parks initially showed that it benefited the population at the Boulders Penguin Colony in Simons Town.

This colony was established in 1983 and from then up to 2005 there was an increase in numbers from surrounding island colonies that showed breeding pairs of 3,900 birds (13). These figures show us that turning specific areas into national parks has benefited the population of African Penguins and therefore makes it an appropriate solution. The ban of fishing in zones close to the birds’ breeding sites is more effective for them as they don’t have to travel as far to find food as there is no longer any over-fishing.

This solution is considered more appropriate than others as it doesn’t cost money to maintain it and no living organisms are affected by it. As we can see from (fig. 2. ), from 2008 to 2010 the foraging ranges for the African Penguins has decreased along with the fisheries catches. This shows us that the penguins don’t have to travel as far for food and there isn’t a shortage of it therefore making the solution an appropriate one. Implications of Solution and Benefits & Risks of Solution Turning these areas into national parks has both an environmental and economic impact.

By creating a national park, you are welcoming tourism. These tourists will greatly impact the environment around them. To get to the national park, they will drive, releasing excess CO2 into the environment around them. Whilst they are at the park, some will drop litter which could harm or damage any local habitat and they could also smoke, releasing fumes into the air that will reduce its cleanliness. This demonstrates the negative environmental impacts that national parks have. In contrast to these negative impacts, national parks also provide a positive economic impact.

They do this by attracting tourism which, in turn, raises local funds. Tourists tend to spend more money when at a national park than locals do whether it’s through restaurants, lodging, retail trade or amusement. As well as boosting local profits, it also provides more jobs for locals. Again these jobs are through such things as restaurants, lodging, retail trade or amusement. Providing jobs for the local community helps to boost local economy as there will be less people struggling to find jobs and being unemployed.

Installing these no-take zones near colonies of the African penguin’s results in fishermen losing space to fish in. This means that they are going to collect less fish because they will all be fishing in the same places, thus reducing the amount of fish in other areas of the sea. This will in turn raise prices of fish back home meaning less people will be able to afford to buy it; this will then damage the economy as fishermen will eventually lose jobs. As well as this, it would, in time, result in extinction of certain fish and other sea creatures whose only habitat is where the fishermen now have to fish.

So, by trying to save one species of animal, they indirectly extinct another. Alternate Solution Captive breeding is where you breed animals in an ex-situ environment. Ex-situ conservation is “the process of protecting an endangered species of plant or animal outside of its natural habitat” (14). This environment will be controlled and have restricted settings. Examples of where captive breeding may take place include: wildlife reserves, zoos and other conservation facilities. Bristol zoo has a conservation breeding programme.

This is the same as a captive breeding programme; they both have the target of releasing any animals in captive back into their natural habitat where their endangerment may be lessened. The main aim of these programmes is to stop a species from becoming extinct (15). Reintroducing the animals back into the wild isn’t as easy as it seems though, Bristol zoo needs to ensure they’re protecting a habitat but at the same time they’re not affecting any locals by taking over farming land in order to create wildlife refuges. A lot of time is taken in researching the habitat set for animals being reintroduced into it.

This is to ensure it is safe and suitable for the animals. A Siberian Tiger in Russia was put under a captive breeding programme and as from the bar graph above; we can see how it helped enhance the population of the tiger. We can see that from 1940 to 2009 there has been a massive increase in the population for the Siberian tiger. This is because they were put into a captive breeding programme therefore stopping them from being hunted. As they mated in this breeding programme, their population grew and an observation of their habitat took place.

Once they had bred enough tigers to keep a steady population and the observation of the habitat had been complete, the tigers were reintroduced back into the wild. To help to aid the rise in population, they were put under protection, meaning that it was illegal for them to be hunted. A combination of the breeding programme and the awareness leading to the protection of these animals helped to increase their population figures. If conservation breeding fails, then a second alternative is needed. In this case, the second alternative to captive breeding could be to move the colony.

In order to do this, a lot of research would need to take place into a new habitat and whether it is suitable for the African penguins. There will need to be a high level of certainty that they will be able to survive in the new habitat provided for them and not be put in a habitat that they cannot adjust to. For this to be completed, all breeding sites would have to be visited so that all eggs can be collected along with all living penguins so that there are none left in their original habitat. This second alternative could work but it would be very time consuming and would require a lot of research.

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