Original Articles

Distribution, population size and conservation of the jackass penguin Spheniscus demersus


The jackass penguin, endemic to southern Africa, is the only member of the Sphenisciformes now breeding in Africa. Its breeding distribution extends from Sylvia Hill, South West Africa (Namibia), to Bird Island, Algoa Bay, South Africa. The non-breeding range extends from Sette Cama, Gabon, to Inhaca Island, Moçambique. Jackass penguins do not usually occur far off shore. The minimum total breeding population in 1978/79 was estimated to be approximately 134 000 birds. Numbers halved between 1956 and 1978 alone as a result of collapses in the South and South West African pilchard populations. Numerical decreases at Possession and Dassen Islands were particularly severe. Prior to 1956 numbers had also decreased, primarily because of large collections of eggs. Sealing activities and guano harvests may also have influenced trends. Only colonies at the periphery of the breeding distribution have increased numerically in recent times, and such increases appear to be related to the availability of suitable prey. Although the species breeds in captivity and is unlikely to become extinct, its continued survival in the wild probably relies on the continued good state of the pelagic fish resources.

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