A spate of penguin fatalities has occurred in Simon’s Town over the past two weeks. The City of Cape Town has identified the predator by installing trap cameras in the area. The images confirmed the presence of a large caracal. The City is collaborating with our partners to protect the endangered African penguins along the Simon’s Town coastline, while at the same time managing this sensitive ecosystem with the utmost care. Read more below:
The recent penguin fatalities occurred during four separate events in the area south of Links Crescent, close to Froggy Pond in Simon’s Town.
The City of Cape Town, together with Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), has investigated the incidents to try and identify the predator/s. Initial evidence suggested the presence of one or more caracals in the area and as such, the City installed trap cameras to confirm this assumption. Images of the predator were finally captured on camera, confirming the presence of a large caracal.‘We are grateful to the City of Cape Town penguin monitors and TMNP rangers who worked day and night shifts over the past weekend, increasing their patrols and staffing observation posts to deter any further predations by this animal. Although the City welcomes the confirmation of the presence of this naturally occurring predator on our coastline, the African penguin population is under threat and, as such, every breeding pair counts towards the future of the species,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe.
Natural predation by an indigenous animal is considered part of the natural patterns and processes in the ecosystem and the prey is not favoured above the predator.
However, when a particular predator starts changing normal predation behaviour and kills multiple individuals – that is more than what is required for feeding – there is cause for concern. More so if the prey species is listed as endangered and the number and frequency of the kills becomes unsustainable in the population. The management authorities are then placed in a difficult position and need to consider the most viable and best option for the ecosystem as a whole.
‘In consultation with our partners, namely SANParks, CapeNature, and various caracal experts, we have decided to trap the caracal using standard methods. If successful, the animal will be collared with a radio tracking device and moved away from the penguin colony, but still within its current home range. Concurrently, the City will deploy other passive mitigation measures to discourage the return of the caracal to the Burghers Walk to Froggy Pond area. We will continue with ongoing monitoring in the area by means of camera traps and foot patrols and urge members of the public not to tamper with any of the equipment installed in the area which are intended to deter the caracal.
‘Lastly, it must be mentioned that while monitoring the camera traps, officials have noticed that dog walkers are walking their dogs off the leash. We would like to remind all dog walkers in the area to please keep their dogs on a leash. We will ensure that new signs are erected in the area to convey this message,’ said Councillor Van der Merwe.
Members of the public can learn more about caracals and their behaviour on the peninsula by visiting www.urbanCaracal.org.
The City will provide the public with more information as the project progresses.