The African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) have approached StopLoz to assist with building artificial nests made of GreenRscreed, which will provide sufficient shelter and offer the best insulation from extreme weather conditions and humidity.
The African penguin, one of South Africa’s most iconic species, was classified as endangered in 2010. With an estimated 25 000 breeding pairs left in the wild, the population is at approximately 2.5% of the estimated figure of one million breeding pairs, recorded in the early 20th century. With the rapid decline of this species, the survival of individual penguins is critical.
African Penguins naturally dig nesting burrows into thick deposits of guano which provide shelter from predators and extreme weather conditions, but if these have been removed by humans, they will make scrapes in the sand under the shelter of bushes. These sand nests are inferior to guano nests, due to exposure to the elements and ready access to predators. African penguins will use artificial nests if these are provided.
Artificial nests of different types have been set up, with previous research identifying variable success of these different types.
Breeding success was compared since 2009 between fiberglass and cement nest types.
Fibreglass nests retained temperatures > 30°C, when penguins start being heat-stressed, for the longest periods of time. Sustained high temperatures will induce increased energy expenditure associated with active thermoregulation for birds in these nests. The combination of high temperatures and low humidity could also have contributed to damaging water loss in the eggs and reduced egg survival, as suggested by the consistent lower hatching success in the fibreglass nests.
Cement nests had more moderate temperatures than fibreglass nests and higher breeding success, possibly due to superior ventilation.
Additional research is ongoing towards engineering artificial nests that better mimic the conditions of natural burrows.