New nests a boost for penguins

A new nesting box for African penguins at the Boulders Beach.

Breeding conditions for the African penguins at Boulders Beach have just improved.

The Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) rangers have been replacing 58 artificial nest boxes for the birds.

The new nesting hides are essential for colonies that are greatly exposed to predation and various environmental factors, says Alison Kock, a Cape Research Centre marine biologist.

Ms Kock said replacing lost habitat with artificial nesting was a useful conservation measure given the decline of the species.

“The nest boxes were first introduced to Boulders in 2003, where 62 of the formacrete nest boxes were installed. The concern regarding this prototype was the size of the formacrete nest box, therefore, it was concluded that this prototype offered less protection. There have been a number of iterations over the years with continual adaptions, based on efficacy and on-site monitoring,” she said.

The nest boxes provide safety from predators and limit exposure to extreme heat and heavy rain.

“It is believed that providing artificial nests will assist in breeding success of the African penguin and therefore assist in increasing the overall population,” Ms Kock said.

According to her, the latest nest design is made of a geotextile fabric that is both non-toxic and environmentally friendly. This prototype is based on measurements of naturally dug burrows made of guano.

Fifty of the new nest boxes were installed at Boulders at the end of January.