26 June 2003
The City of Cape Town is to install what is probably the world’s first “penguin crossing” in Simonstown’s Main Road to caution motorists to slow down for these feathered pedestrians in an attempt to reduce penguin fatalities in the area.
The colony of African penguins lives in a natural protected area at Boulders Beach, which forms part of the Cape Peninsula National Park.
Despite various attempts by the park management to contain the birds, some continue to venture across the main road in search of suitable nesting areas during the annual breeding season.
According to park ranger Justin Buchmann, speeding motorists have killed 19 penguins during the past four months.
“Main Road is a busy thoroughfare in the False Bay area, and although the speed limit on the stretch of road near Boulders is 60km an hour, the penguins are difficult to spot, especially at night when they have their backs to oncoming traffic,” said Buchmann.
“We have put up artificial nests to attract the penguins to breed inside the park, and we are considering introducing ‘penguin catchers’ to return the birds which have wandered beyond the boundaries,” he said.
“This is one of the more unusual aspects of managing South Africa’s only national park that is located in the middle of a city, and we are fortunate to enjoy a good working relationship with the City of Cape Town.”
According to the park’s assistant section manager, Monique Ruthenberg, there are currently about 19 nests above the road. “But to move the birds now will only disturb the nesting chicks and eggs. We are presently consulting with relevant parties about the most appropriate intervention.”
The latest annual penguin census estimates the total population at 3 600 birds – from just two breeding pairs in 1982. “Compared to last year’s figures, the population has remained stable,” Ruthenberg said.