A man, a pram and the penguins
Dave Chamberlain, an apparently crazy South African, recently completed a run of 2 700km from Walvis Bay in Namibia to Port Elizabeth’s Bayworld pushing a pram, all to raise awareness of the plight of the African penguin.
The pram was a convenient container for his belongings and camp gear as he ran, completing nearly 30km every day. He left Walvis Bay last October (carefully timing his departure to attend a wedding in Yzerfontein) and finally arrived in PE at the end of January. He ran along the penguins' entire habitat range, and the staff at Bayworld in Port Elizabeth went out and ran with him into town.
PE and its environs have a special significance for the ongoing survival of African penguins. Just off the mainland are St Croix Island and Bird Island, where fully 50% of all remaining African penguins live. And here too they are vulnerable. There are fishing fleets scooping up the sardines they need to survive, and there is the constant threat of an industrial or oil spill.
Recently another census showed there were only 20 000 breeding pairs. In other words, the population has plummeted by 99% in 100 years.
The rest are mostly at Boulders Beach near Cape Town and Betty’s Bay, about an hour away from Cape Town. The penguins, the only such species on the African mainland, used to have island strongholds, but increasing numbers of seals are taking over their islands.
African penguins numbers have dropped dramatically. There were thought to be about two million a century or more ago. The first official penguin census was in 1956, when 141 000 breeding pairs were counted. Recently another census showed there were only 20 000 breeding pairs. In other words, the population has plummeted by 98% in 100 years.