The African penguin colony in Simon’s Town earns R311 million annually, most of it spend from overseas visitors, according to a City of Cape Town study.
It notes the plucky little seabirds are very popular with the overseas visitors who make up 88% and the rest is split between domestic tourists and residents of Cape Town.
The penguins could potentially bring in R6.87 billion over the next 30 years, of which R2.27 billion would be invested in the Simon’s Town area, the study says.
This figure assumes a conservative visitor growth of 2% annually.
The City says it did the study of the penguins’ economic value to take stock of its environmental assets so as to find ways to better protect them and use them sustainably.
According to the study, the penguins provide 885 jobs in all parts of Cape Town.
A survey of actual jobs in Simon’s Town nearest the colony, showed 80 permanent and 35 seasonal direct jobs are associated with the penguins.
The first breeding pair of penguins arrived at Boulders, Simon’s Town, in 1983 and the colony grew rapidly reaching 1 000 nesting pairs by 2001. Today, 854 pairs are found in the area.
The study found the penguin colony adds to Simon’s Town property values and has high heritage and socio-cultural value too, combining an endangered species in a picturesque setting, with high visitor numbers.
Transport expenditure associated with the colony is R37 million a year for international and domestic tourists.
And tourists spend on other items including entry fees, food, curios, guides, local transport, entertainment and accommodation.
Money spent on items that can be ascribed to the colony amounts to R255 million a year within the whole of Cape Town, R90 million of which accrues to Simon’s Town.
Capetonians’ colony-associated spending is roughly R19 million a year.
The study found the investment in and management of the penguin colony by SANParks and the City of Cape Town, in partnership with the SA Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCOBB), residents and tourism stakeholders has allowed for the creation of a world-class conservation and tourist destination.
But ongoing management and improvement are needed if the benefits associated with the colony are to be sustained and increased.
According to City of Cape Town’s Landscape Master Plan for the area, and with SANParks projections, combined investments of R22 million are needed to meet the area’s medium-term investment requirements.
Simon’s Town Municipality managed the area until SANParks took over in 1998 when the site became part of the Table Mountain National Park.
Over the years, significant additions and upgrades of facilities and amenities were undertaken and SANParks staff numbers increased to 20 permanent employees.
Visitor numbers to the SANParks Boulders section of the penguin colony have grown from about 580 000 in 2006 to 930 000 in 2017.